Skip to main content

Full text of "The Literary Symbol"

See other formats


CO > CO 


OUP--2272 19-1 l-79l '),000 


Call No. &.O.I . Accewion 

Au ' hor 

* This book should be rctiftned on or before the date last 
marked below./ 

The Literary Symbol 








Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 55-792$ 


HIS DISCOURSE on what is not altogether beyond it begins 
with an approach to definition and proceeds with history. Analysis 
of parts, such as image, action, and structure, occupies the center 
and contemplation of form the end. Examples, following my inter- 
est, are commonly from our time. Since it is not my purpose to 
survey symbolic parts and wholes but to illustrate them, any ade- 
quate examples will do. Joyce and Yeats are more abundantly repre- 
sented than others because they were handier. That some no less 
exemplary writers do not appear may be imputed by malice or 
charity to ignorance or taste; but the true reason of that, falling 
somewhere betwixt and between, is that I lacked time for making 
friends with some acquaintances, Goethe, for example, and Rilke, 
whose absence would trouble me were I out surveying. 

Parts of this monograph have been presented before. During the 
Conference on the Novel at the University of Rochester under the 
direction of Kathrine Roller (February, 1951), I offered an early 
and briefer version of my chapter on the symbolist novel, of which 
a still briefer version appeared as an article in the magazine A.D. 
(Winter, 1952). My first chapter and parts of others composed a 

paper for the Symbolism Seminar of The Institute for Religious and 
Social Studies, held at The Jewish Theological Seminary of Amer- 
ica, 1954; somewhat revised, this paper was offered at the fourteenth 
Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion at Harvard Uni- 
versity, 1954, and is published in Symbols and Society (Harper & 
Brothers, 1955). The present version has been expanded in places 
and contracted in others. A part of my sixth chapter appeared as 
"Dante and Mrs. Bloom" in Accent (Spring, 1951); and part of the 
second chapter appeared as "James Joyce and the Hermetic Tradi- 
tion" in Journal of the History of Ideas (January, 1954). I thank 
the editors of these periodicals and the directors of these conferences 
for permission to use this material. 

My ideas of the symbol were formed or improved not only in 
the Symbolism Seminar at The Jewish Theological Seminary, where 
Lyman Bryson, Kenneth Burke, Jessica Feingold, Louis Finkelstein, 
Albert Hofstadter, John LaFarge, S.J., R. M. Maclver, Margaret 
Mead, Ernest Nagel, I. I. Rabi, and others confronted puzzling 
things on Thursdays, but, before that, in my own seminar at Colum- 
bia, where I conducted my education in public for several years. To 
all members of this society, which pursued (and almost caught) the 
symbol, but to these in particular, I owe a debt: Leonard Albert, 
Chester Anderson, Avel Austin, Charles Burgess, Joseph Duncan, 
Saul Galin, Pierre Guiet, Sam Hynes, Hyman Kleinman, Allen 
Mandelbaum, Theodore Mischel, Barbara Seward, John Senior, 
Morton Seiden, Norman Silverstein, Grover Smith, Sol Stein, Philip 
Stern, Jean Sudrann, John Treacy, and John Unterecker. Susanne 
Langer, who attended this seminar twice, raised instructive ques- 
tions. I am no less indebted for idea, fact, correction, or other aid 
to Dino Bigongiari, William Bridgwater, Christopher Herold, Saint 
Kevin of Glendalough, Joseph Mazzeo, F. L. Overcarsh, Daniel 
Weiss, Henry H. Wiggins, and all the explicators of my class in 
Contemporary Texts at Columbia. 


I am grateful to Henry Allen Moe, the Trustees, and the Com- 
mittee of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation for 
the award of a fellowship which enabled me to complete this thing 
in peace or something like it; and I am grateful to my sponsors. 

Passages from Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse, Mrs. Dallo- 
way, and Night and Day, E. M. Forster's Aspects of the Novel, 
T. E. Hulme's Speculations, and T. S. Eliot's Collected Poems are 
quoted by permission of Har court, Brace and Company, Inc.; a pas- 
sage from T. S. Eliot's "Ode" is quoted by permission of The Har- 
vard Advocate; passages from Collected Poems by Wallace Stevens 
are quoted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., passages from 
the Essays (copyright 1918) and the Collected Poems (copyright 
1950) of W. B. Yeats are quoted by permission of The Macmillan 
Company; passages from the Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas, 
Stephen Hero by James Joyce, and Ezra Pound's Selected Poems are 
quoted by permission of New Directions; passages from Marcel 
Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, James Joyce's Ulysses, and 
William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! are quoted by permission 
of Mr. Saxe Commins and Random House, Inc.; a passage from 
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is quoted by permission 
of Charles Scribner's Sons; passages from James Joyce's Portrait of 
the Artist and Henry Green's Party Going are quoted by permission 
of Mr. B. W. Huebsch and The Viking Press, Inc. I heartily thank 
all these for their courtesy. By arrangement with J. M. Dent & Sons, 
Ltd. of London I quote an excerpt from Jean-Aubry's Joseph Con- 
rad, Life and Letters and Joseph Conrad's Secret Agent. 


Columbia University 
January 6, 7955 











INDEX 269 

The Literary Symbol 

Excellent Dumb Discourse 

.HAT symbols present thought and feeling while celebrating or 
constructing suitable worlds, though plain to Moses and other au- 
thors before the time of Blake, has been plainer since then. Melville, 
Baudelaire, and Ibsen come readily to mind, but the twentieth cen- 
tury brought with it an even thicker crowd of romantic symbolists, 
including the greatest writers of our period. Not only Yeats and 
Joyce, Valery and Proust, Wallace Stevens and Faulkner, Mann, 
Kafka, and Conrad all writers of the first order but even more 
popular, though no less important, writers such as F. Scott Fitzgerald 
and T. S. Eliot, making symbolic worlds of symbolic elements, have 
shaped our vision of reality. 

Consider Dr. T. J. Eckleburg's eyes in The Great Gatsby: 

About half way between West Egg and New York the motor road hastily 
joins the railroad and runs beside it for a quarter of a mile, so as to shrink 
away from a certain desolate area of land. This is a valley of ashes 
a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and 
grotesque gardens, where ashes take the forms of houses. . . . But above 
the gray land and the spasms of bleak dust which drift endlessly over 

it, you perceive, after a moment, the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg. The 
eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg are blue and gigantic their retinas are 
one yard high. They look out of no face, but, instead, from a pair of 
enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a non-existent nose. Evidently 
some wild wag of an oculist set them there to fatten his practice in the 
borough of Queens, and then sank down himself into eternal blindness, 
or forgot them and moved away. But his eyes, dimmed a little by many 
paintless days, under sun and rain, brood on over the solemn dumping 

Fitzgerald's desolating image, which recurs throughout the novel, is 
what most would call a symbol. If this vision of eyes is a functioning 
part of a larger structure, as the single eye on a signboard near the 
end of Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury or the eyes of Beatrice in 
Eliot's "The Hollow Men" are obscurely portentous but essential 
constituents of that novel and this poem, it becomes apparent that 
symbols may serve as elements of a work. That the work itself may 
be as symbolic as its elements is not unlikely. 

The Cocfyail Party seems a symbol composed of symbols, not there 
to be explained but to play their part in a conspiracy. Peripheral sug- 
gestions of gin and water, of making dishes out of nothing, and of 
single eyes may limit or deepen the total effect and excite the critic, 
but the audience, taking them as they come, enjoys the experience 
to which they contribute. As if referring to members of this audience, 
Eliot's Thomas Becket says: "They know and do not know." 

The masters of those who know tell us that symbol-making is 
our natural activity and our condition. Catching up with artists or 
trying to account for them, recent philosophers provide an assurance 
that the value we place on symbols is not misplaced. Whitehead re- 
gards symbolism, if I understand him correctly, as a mode of per- 
ception and a cause of error, but, although he talks about literature 

at times, he is too general and indifferent to help us with the literary 
symbol. Cassirer, who seems more to the point, says man is a symbolic 
animal whose languages, myths, religions, sciences, and arts are sym- 
bolic forms by which he projects his reality and comes to know it: 
"What reality is apart from these forms is irrelevant." 
f As these philosophers assure us, all perception, all our fanatical 
pursuits, and all our arts may be symbolic in some fundamental 
sense at all times, but at certain times symbolism has become con- 
scious and deliberate^ It is with one of these periods that I am con- 
cerned and with one of the arts. Before approaching the literary sym- 
bol as it is used in our time, I must accost symbol and tell the differ- 
ence between symbol and sign or at least fix their usage/Webster says 
that a symbol is "that which stands for or suggests something else 
by reason of relationship, association, convention or accidental but 
not intentional resemblance; especially, a visible sign of something 
invisible, as an idea, a quality or a totality such as a state or a church.']/ 
Something that stands for or suggests something else is an attractive 
account of the word as we use it in the market place but too general 
and maybe too clear for the closet. I prefer "a visible sign of some- 
thing invisible," although this would seem to exclude unwritten 
music or music as we hear it. Webster's echo of the catechism or the 
prayer book might be intensified and the definition made more in- 
clusive by saying that a symbol seems the outward sign of an in- 
ward state, if by inward state we refer to feeling or thought or a 
combination of the two. However, this gets us, as it got Webster, into 
trouble with the word sign. 

The words symbol and sign are commonly interchangeable, yet 
at times some of us mean one thing by sign and another by symbol. 
That is a cause of trouble and this is another: sign, taken to mean 
an exact reference, may include symbol, and symbol, taken to mean 

a suggestive device, may include sign. Since Dr. T. J. Eckleburg's 
eyes occupy a signboard, they are plainly a sign, yet we agree or, I 
think, should agree that they arc as plainly a symbol, which, in this 
case, must consist of a sign. If we define a sign as an exact reference, 
it must include symbol because a symbol is an exact reference too. 
The difference seems to be that a sign is an exact reference to some- 
thing definite and a symbol an exact reference to something indefi- 
nite. jLess of a paradox than they appear, exact and indefinite will 
get along more comfortably together if we consider the senses of 
exact, one of which is suitable. Dr. Eckleburg's eyes are a sign refer- 
ring to Dr. Eckleburg and his business. As a symbol they suggest, to 
use Webster's word, more thoughts and feelings than we could state; 
for if we stated as many as we could the wasteland, the suburb, the 
modern world, futility, or moral censure some would be left over 
and some would remain unstatable. 

As I shall use it, the word sign means a one-to-one correspondence. 
Example: the American flag is a sign of the United States, used to 
identify post offices, income tax bureaus, and ships. The flag may 
also suggest Iwo Jima, General Grant's cigar, and graduation day 
as the sign TIMES SQUARE on that corner suggests as much as it indi- 
cates. The sign may have symbolic values; but ignoring connota- 
tions, overtones, and suggestions, I shall regard the sign as a pointer. 
Indifferent to the sign as symbol or as the container of a symbol, I 
prefer to look at the symbol as a, container of a sign upon the flag, 
for example, as a symbol which happens by proximity and custom 
to indicate a post office. Those eyes as suggesters of many things, 
some of them nameless, seem more entertaining than as references to 
an oculist. 

If we receive sign as pointer and my variation upon Webster's 
second try as a provisional account of symbol, we may proceed to 

art as symbol and symbol in the arts. According to Cassircr's Essay 
on Man, as we have seen, art is a symbolic form, parallel in respect 
o this to religion or science. Each of these forms builds up a universe 
that enables man to interpret and organize his experience; and each 
is a discovery, because a creation, of reality. Although similar in func- 
tion, the forms differ in the kind of reality built. Whereas science 
builds it of facts, art builds it of feelings, intuitions of quality, and 
the other distractions of our inner life and in their degrees so do 
myth and religion. What art, myth, and religion are, Cassirer con- 
fesses, cannot be expressed by a logical definition. 

Nevertheless, let us see what Clive Bell says about art. He calls 
it "significant form," but what that is he is unable to say. Having 
no quarrel with art as form, we may, however, question its signifi- 
cance. By significant he cannot mean important in the sense of 
having import, nor can he mean having the function of a sign; 
for to him art, lacking reference to nature, is insignificant. Since, 
however, he tells us that /a work of art "expresses" the emotion of 
its creator and "provokes" an emotion in its contemplator,)he seems 
to imply that his significant means expressive and provocative. The 
emotion expressed and provoked is an "aesthetic emotion," contem- 
plative, detached from all concerns of utility and from all reference. 

Attempting to explain Bell's significant form, Roger Fry, equally 
devoted to Whistler and art for art's sake, says that Flaubert's "ex- 
pression of the idea" is as near as he can get to it, but neither Flaubert 
nor Fry tells what is meant by idea.|To "evoke" it, however, the artist 
creates an "expressive design" or "symbolic form," by which the 
spirit "communicates its most secret and indefinable impulses." I 

|Susanne Langer,Jwho occupies a place somewhere between Fry 
and Cassirer, though nearer the latter ,{once said in a seminar that a 
work of art is an "urjassigned syntactical symbol.'^Since this defini- 


tion does not appear in her latest book, she may have rejected it, but 
it seems far more precise than Fry's attempt.jBy unassigned she prob- 
ably intends insignificant in the sense of lacking sign value or fixed 
reference; syntactical implies a form composed of parts in relation- 
ship to one another; and a symbol, according to Feeling and Form, 
is "any device whereby we are enabled to make an abstraction."/Too 
austere for my taste, this account of symbol seems to need elaboration, 
which, to be sure, her book provides. For the present, however, taking 
symbol to mean an outward device for presenting an inward state, 
and taking unassigned and syntactical as I think she uses them, let 
us tentatively admire her definition of the work of art. 

Parallel symbolic forms, says Mrs. Langer, the arts differ from 
one another in materials and in what is symbolized. As music uses 
sounds, painting colors, and sculpture stuff, so literature uses words to 
create an image of time, space, or dynamic patterns of feeling. Music 
attends to virtual time, painting to the semblance of space, and litera- 
ture to vital patterns. However referential or discursive the materials 
and elements or constituent parts of painting or literature, these arts 
are as irrelevant and nondiscursive as music. 

| Words, which she finds trivial in themselves, seem more than 
materials of literature. Its elements may be character, action, and 
image; but words, more than the matter from which these elements 
that compose the form are made, also serve as elements in their own 
right as her metaphor of syntax should imply. The potency of the 
real thing, Cassirer says in Language and Myth, is contained in the 
word that creates it. If language, as he says elsewhere, is a symbolic 
form, literature uses elements of one symbolic form as those of an- 
other. Words are symbols, but like most symbols they are not with- 
out significance or sign value, as the grammarian's connotation and 
denotation imply .llf words are elements as well as materials of litera- 


ture, a poem, differing in this respect from a sonata or a plastic ab- 
straction, is a symbolic whole composed in part of references. At 
once assigned and unassigned, literature troubles aesthetic philoso- 
phers and moralists alike. 

My interest in literature is not that of the philosopher, still less 
that of the moralist. Cassirer talks about art in general as symbolic 
form, and Mrs. Langer about poems as symbols, whereas I have in 
mind not only that but the symbolic elements that compose the poem. 
My examination of the literary symbol will proceed from constituent 
images to whole works. Since the image seems an approximate 
epitome of the whole, we may acquire understanding of the literary 
symbol from a return to Dr. Eckleburg's eyes. 

Taking that signboard as the image, we recognize it as a definite 
object, or at least as the semblance of an object, which, though noth- 
ing much in itself, has received import from experience and memory. 
We know that eyes, even virtual eyes, are for looking, watching, 
rebuking; and with them we associate many other activities and at- 
titudes, which we can feel more easily than explain. If the signboard 
were alone in a kind of nothing, we might not know which of these 
implications to pick from memory or feeling and which to reject. 
Situated as it is, however, near a commuters' railroad between Wall 
Street and a suburb, near a highway for homing brokers, and in the 
middle of a waste of ashes and shacks, which is presented by charged, 
desolating words, that signboard or rather its meaning is at once 
enriched and limited by context. I agree that this would be no less 
true if the signboard found itself in a kind of nothing, for nothing as 
context becomes something. No constituent image is without context, 
and every image owes context part of what it bears. Since context 
owes as much to image, the roads and ashes and all the .im- 
plied commuters acquire import from those eyes. By reciprocal limi- 

tation and expansion, image and context, two interacting compo- 
nents of what they create, carry feelings and thoughts at once definite 
and indefinite. This composite of image and context constitutes that 

This image in context is an element of The Great Gatsby, but if 
it is an epitome of the symbolic whole in which it functions, it is no 
more than approximate; for although work and image alike are 
made up of elements which, working together, present a feeling and 
maybe an idea, the constituent image has immediate literary con- 
text and the work has not. Of course we may take the state of so- 
ciety, the literary tradition, what we know of the hand that wrote 
the book and what we feel of the hand that holds it, time, place, 
and the weather as a kind of context with which the work may 
interact; but such circumstance, of the sort that surrounds all our 
affairs, is too general and remote to serve as more than a parallel to 
the surroundings of Dr. Eckleburg's signboard. The work as symbol, 
therefore, differs from the image as symbol in lacking the limitation 
and enlargement provided by immediate context. Work and image 
may have similar syntactical structure and function, but without 
immediate context, the work, less narrowly directed, is harder to 
apprehend. This lack is more or less supplied by the greater richness 
and complexity of the internal relationships that, providing control 
and enhancement, compose the whole. 

t The literary symbol, whether a work or one of its parts, is clearly 
an embodiment. As the spirit or vital principal occupies our bodies 
and shines out, so thought and feeling occupy the form, shape, or 
body that we call symbol.^With the symbol or something like it in 
mind, Shakespeare's Theseus in A Midsummer-Night's Dream, con- 
sidering madmen and poets, speaks of "shaping fantasies, that appre- 
hend more than cool reason ever comprehends." 


And, as imagination bodies forth 
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen 
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing 
A local habitation and a name. 

If we may take these verses as references to the literary symbol, 
it is a thing made by the shaping imagination to body forth an 
unknown airy nothing. Although made by the poet's pen and com- 
posed of words, these words, no longer in the service of cool or dis- 
cursive reason, serve nondiscursive purposes; neither practical nor 
logical, the poet's speech is the builder of symbolic forms. Shakespeare 
again has the words for this kind of speech, no longer speech but 
shape, in The Tempest, where, speaking of shapes, gesture, and 
sound, one of his people calls nondiscursive though expressive form 
"a kind of excellent dumb discourse." 

Unlike the sign, which interests us less for what it is than what 
it points to, this dumb discourse is interesting in itself. Unlike the 
sign, it cannot be separated from what it stands for; for it is what 
it stands for or else part of it by a kind of synecdoche. Not entirely 
translatable and without substitute, it resists what Wilbur Marshall 
Urban in Language and Reality calls "expansion." That transcen- 
dental philosopher, who believes that a symbol is a "condensation 
of meaning, of unexpressed reference," holds that it may be "ex- 
panded into expressed reference" or discourse. If that were so, there 
would be no need to employ symbols; for as the dancer said, "If I 
could say what it means, I should not have to dance it." Justly re- 
buked for those notions, Urban has retired to the arms of New 
Critics. But the symbol remains, calling for explanation and resisting 
it. Though definite in itself and generally containing a sign that may 
be identifiedjfthe symbol carries something indeterminate and, how- 
ever we try, there is a residual mystery that escapes our intellects, 


As Carlyle said, and what he said is true to our impression, the symbol 
at once reveals and conceals.) | R.M.C. ** 

The symbol conceals what it carries and resists total explanation 
uecause it is founded upon analogy, which, philosophers say, is primi- 
tive, childish, and irrational. \Cassirer has told how primitive man 
confused analogy with fact, and Whitehead, seeking things as they 
are, has found in analogy a cause of modern error; but men of 
letters, recovering an ancient illusion, have made of it a device for 
presenting apprehensions, counteracting the world of fact, and creat- 
ing something more suitable. If symbol is analogy, it is related to 
metaphor, but the account of that relationship can wait awhile. For 
the present it is enough to say that the symbol seems a metaphor one 
half of which remains unstated and indefinite. As in metaphor, the 
halves of the equation may be related by partial similarity, which is 
qualitative at times and structural or functional at others but hardly 
ever imitative or representative. Dr. Eckleburg's eyes and their en- 
vironment are an analogy for an unexpressed feeling and thought 
about our condition, not an imitation of it. 

The creator of such a symbol is not unlike Henry James's antique 
dealer, who, taking the golden bowl from its box, "left the important 
object for as 'important' it did somehow present itself to produce 
its certain effect." Certain from one point of view, this effect is un- 
certain from another, and the producer of the effect or the symbol 
itself is definite enough to call for definition to call in vain maybe ; 
for, if we may judge by the definitions I have reviewed and by my 
own approaches and withdrawals, the enterprise is difficult. Here, 
nevertheless, is my attempt to establish the important object: 
\ The literary symbol, an analogy for something unstated, consists 
of an articulation of verbal elements that, going beyond reference and 
the limits of discourse, embodies and offers a complex of feeling and 


thought. Not necessarily an image, this analogical embodiment may 
also be a rhythm, a juxtaposition, an action, a proposition, a struc- 
ture, or a poem. One half of this peculiar analogy embodies the 
other, and the symbol is what it symbolizes.! 

I am afraid that this approach to a working definition, hopelessly 
general, might fit all literature at all times, but there are differences 
in degree between Tom Jones, let us say, and Moby Dicf^. What I 
have in mind is less literature in general than symbolist literature, 
my term for writing deliberately symbolic and for writing in symbol- 
ist periods which, though not necessarily deliberate, takes its method 
from current practice. Most of the writers I shall consider are con- 
scious symbolists not that it matters whether they are or not; for 
what matters is the kind of thing they made. I think we can recognize 
the difference in degree that separates their work, if symbolist, from 
Tom Jones, which, like all literature, is symbolic. The mark of dis- 
tinction is embodied or immanent analogy. 

Returning to the conscious or unconscious use of analogy, let us 
consider the statements of four symbolists. In a letter to Mrs. Haw- 
thorne about Moby DicJ^, Melville said : 

Your allusion for example to the "Spirit Spout" first showed to me that 
there was a subtle significance in that thing but I did not, in that case, 
mean it. I had some vague idea while writing it, that the whole book 
was susceptible of an allegoric construction, & also that parts of it were 
but the speciality of many of the particular subordinate allegories, were 
first revealed to me, after reading Mr. Hawthorne's letter, which, with- 
out citing any particular examples, yet intimated the part-&-parcel al- 
legoricalness of the whole. 

By allegory he meant, I think, what we mean by symbol. Happy to 
discover what he had made and tolerantly aware that what his crea- 
tion carries is an affair between the reader and a book, no longer 


the creator's but an object for creating feelings and ideas in others, 
Melville appears to have been no more than partly conscious of what 
he was creating. In his Preface to Paludes, an early work, Andre Gide 

Before explaining my book to others, I wait for them to explain it to 
me. To explain it first is to limit its sense; for if we know what we wished 
to say, we do not know if we have said only that. One always says more 
than that. And my interest is what I have put into the work without 
knowing it, the unconscious part that I like to call God's. A book is 
always a collaboration, and the greater its value, the smaller the part 
of the scribe. As we expect all things in nature to reveal themselves, so 
let us expect our books to be revealed by readers. 

Speaking in a letter of the symbolic character of all art and of un- 
conscious and conscious symbolism, D. H. Lawrence said that while 
much of his own symbolism was intentional, some of it escaped his 
notice until later. In an interview William Faulkner, speaking of 
how critics take his images, said: "I'm just a writer. Not a literary 
man. . . . Maybe all sorts of symbols and images get in. I don't 
know. When a good carpenter builds something, he puts the nails 
where they belong. Maybe they make a fancy pattern when he's 
through, but that's not why he put them in that way." Although 
Faulkner's statements to his public not uncommonly reveal tongue 
in cheek, maybe those nails are an analogy for analogies. \ 
\ Whether consciously, unconsciously, or with a profession of this 
or that, authors make symbols and readers receive themJfWe must 
discover, if we can, the function of symbols and for whom they are 
designed. As for the second of these, a symbol in a novel may serve a 
character, the author, the reader, or the critic. 
Some symbols, plainly for a character in the book, are there to 


carry something to him and by his reaction to enlighten us about 
him. If like the green-eyed man in Joyce's "An Encounter," the 
character responds to hair and whips, we understand his nature a 
little better. To find how the symbol serves the author we must con- 
sult psychology and history (which I do not propose to do here) ; 
for time and fixation may determine usage. Beyond these he may 
use symbols to embody what he cannot think, to discover what he 
feels or to express it, or, if he is an artist like Faulkner, to function 
as elements in a design. Convinced of the inadequacy of discourse 
for all that lies outside the rational and the prosaic or persuaded that 
things as they are are not entirely explicable, he may resort to ana- 
logical embodiment, which is useful too for supplementing a dis- 
cursive meaning with overtones, qualities, and implications beyond 
logical handling. "Where there is an obscurity too deep for our 
Reason," says Sir Thomas Browne, " 'tis good to sit down with [an] 
. . . adumbration." Dissatisfied with what is, the author may use 
the symbol to create something better. For the philosopher, the psy- 
chologist, or the historian it is all right to inquire into the relation of 
author to symbol, but not for the critic, lest he commit the "inten- 
tional fallacy," 

To a point the reader may share the author's concerns and find in 
the symbol a reminder of his own; but for him the principal func- 
tion of symbol is organizing his experience and enlarging it. This 
supposes apprehension of the symbol, but even if careless of it, the 
reader may respond beneath the level of awareness and find himself 
surprised by an enrichment he cannot account for. Perhaps this is 
the commonest and best way to take symbolist writing. For critics, 
however, unawareness is a fault. Their response to symbolism, far 
keener than that of most authors and readers, is of two kinds: exer- 


cising ingenuity as over a puzzle, they may explain meaning and 
reduce embodiment to discourse; or, if aesthetic, they may try to fix 
the function of parts in the whole. 

For author and reader the symbol is unitive. By its roots, as the 
dictionary tells us, the word symbol implies throwing or putting 
together, pfaken from one realm of experience, vegetable nature for 
example, to serve in another, let us say the moral, the symbol joins 
those realms. 1 By uniting the separate it can organize experience into 
a kind of order and, revealing the complex relationships among seem- 
ingly divided things, confer peace. Men of God praise the symbol's 
mediatory power) Whether verbal or iconographic, the religious sym- 
bol, and the political too, can unite man with man and man with 
something greater than he, society or God./Jung, speaking of the 
symbol as reconciler, finds it uniting the unconscious with the con- 
scious, and Whitehead finds it connecting modes of experienceXIn a 
world as scattered as our own this ability is not without valuer'More 
important or at least more immediate for us is the power of the sym- 
bol to put parts of a literary work together in the service of the 

The symbol may put things together, but we must find if it puts 
author and reader together by establishing communication between 
them. The trouble with the symbol as communicator is that, although 
definite in being the semblance of an articulated object, it is indefinite 
in what it presents.] In the first place the symbol is an analogy for 
^something undefined and in the second our apprehension of the 
analogy is commonly incompletej Moreover, the terms of the analogy 
are confused. Since one is embodied in the other, our search for a 
meaning apart from the embodiment must return to it and we are 
left with a form, at once definite and indefinite, and significant per- 
haps only by seeming so. 


For communication there must be reference to actuality or to some- 
thing accepted.vlhe symbol may communicate by incorporating a 
sign or a traditional associationyln so far as it has significance in the 
sense of containing a sign, it may unite author, reader, and fact, but 
significance is the symbol's lesser part. The greater part, remaining 
mysterious, carries no guarantee of communicating. As we have 
seen, the author's community with his symbol is often incomplete; 
therefore what passes between him and the reader through inter- 
mediary embodiment must be less nearly complete. When we pass 
beyond significance, communication is uncertain or partial at best. 
What the reader gets from a symbol depends not only upon what 
the author has put into it but upon the reader's sensitivity and his 
consequent apprehension of what is there. The feeling of profundity 
that accompanies it comes from a gradual but never final penetra- 
tion of the form. T. S. Eliot's remarks about the poem seem relevant ' 
here: an independent object, the poem (or symbol) stands between/ 
author and reader, related in some fashion to each, but the relation- 
ship between author and object is not necessarily similar to that be- 
tween object and reader. It may express the author and suggest to : 
the reader, but expression and suggestion need not coincide. I. A. 
Richards, Eliot's opposite, who finds poetry the highest form of 
communication, finds it so by reducing symbol to sign. If the symbol, 
apart from incorporated sign, has little value as communicator be- 
tween author and reader, its value may lie in communication between 
itself and the reader. What it submits to him and what he receives, 
however, may be different things. Nevertheless the value of the 
symbol to readers must be sought in this imperfect relationship. 

Maybe the symbol has value as a way of knowing; but the meaning 
of knowing depends upon one's school. If one belongs to the scientific 
school, knowledge means acquaintance with fact, the sign becomes 


the instrument of knowing, and, as Ernest Nagel has pointed out, 
the symbol of science, a fiction ancillary to sign, is only a means of 
arriving at it. In the sense of direct reference to fact, the literary 
symbol, like that of science but worse, is so far from cognitive that 
even the sign it incorporates seems useless or vague. If we take 
knowledge to mean acquaintance with truth, the literary symbol, 
equally uncertain, may seem a more suitable instrument. How- 
ever, Yeats, an old man at the time, said: "Man can embody truth 
but he cannot know it." By "know" in this place he seems, like 
a rationalist, to mean apprehend by discursive reason, though we 
should expect a romantic poet to find the symbol a way to another 
kind of knowledge intuitive (immediate apprehension without 
logical interference) or else emotional. For him, the symbol, embody- 
ing intuitive truth and feeling, might present something which, al- 
though imperfectly received, feels like knowledge. As a character 
puts it in a novel by Charles Williams: "I sometimes think the nearest 
we can get to meaning is to feel as if there was meaning." Virtual 
knowledge, addressed to our feelings, might be what the symbol 
carries. But "virtual" implies that true knowledge is scientific and so 
does the quotation from Yeats. 

Before we accept that meaning of knowledge we should consult 
Cassirer, an enemy of "naive realism," to whom scientific knowledge 
is one of many kinds, each a symbolic form for showing what reality 
is like. The literary symbol, which presents knowledge of its own 
reality, may not communicate this knowledge, but by its form, which 
corresponds in quality to a nature of things, creates it. In so far as 
we apprehend the form we too are informed .(The value of the sym- 
bol, if we accept this account of it, lies therefore in creating a vision 
of reality and submitting it to our apprehension. Not only creative 
but heuristic, it serves to discover the reality it shapes.N Perhaps in 


view of the narrow sense of "knowledge" it would be better to 
speak of the literary symbol not as a way of knowing but of embody- 
ing awareness or of conceiving in the sense of becoming filled with 
or/ pregnant. 

v If feeling is part of conceiving, we must consider feeling, which 
may be of several kinds. Aside from that experienced and embodied 
by the author, feeling may be our reaction to the stimulus afforded 
by the embodiment, a sign for us, if we are sensitive and experienced, 
that something of value is there. But those who find fallacies con- 
genial tell us that this is subjective and, except for indication of 
possible value, unreliable. In the second place, the feeling may be 
that embodied in the symbol and offered to us. This, as T. S. Eliot 
says in "Tradition and the Individual Talent," is objective, imper- 
sonal, and "significant." In the third place, the feeling may be what 
the embodiment creates. Equivalent to an apprehension of the feel- 
ing in the symbol, this is not so much a feeling of our own as an 
awareness, at once distant and sympathetic, of immanence by a 
kind of empathy. If that is the case, contemplation of feeling rather 
than feeling itself marks our happiest encounter with these fictions. 
As the feeling in the symbol is more important than our emo- 
tional response, so the symbol is more important than what it sug- 
gests. Lacking embodiment and the semblance of actuality, what 
it suggests turns back to its source to recapture a body and enlarge 
it. The symbol is not there like a sign to point to something else, to 
take the place of something else, or even to stand for it, but to display 
itself with all it has created and welcomed home. The trouble with 
Whitehead in this connection is that he thinks a symbol may be 
exchanged with what it symbolizes, as if the halves of the peculiar 
equation were of equal importance. This may be true of certain signs 
or of symbols that only convenience recommends, but it is far from 


true of literary symbols. Our concern, less with disembodied souls 
than with embodied ones, keeps our metaphysics warm or, to call 
upon a more classical poem, the symbol haunts us with its body on. 

Since his region is on the other side of logic, the critic of such em- 
bodiments has no rational way of proceeding from analysis of part 
and function to a judgment of the whole. If he feels that symbols 
offer something that analysis fails to guarantee, he must call upon 
intuition and feeling for help, not only the sudden intuition and 
feeling that accompany discovery of the object but the feeling that 
accompanies the apprehension of feeling in it. Analysis, justified by 
these feelings, may help to account for them: "I no sooner felt," says 
Coleridge in Biographia Literaria, "than I sought to understand." 
However impersonal the critic or the work itself, the criticism of 
literature is a transaction between an impersonal object and a person. 
However cold-blooded and objective the "exegetical inquirer" may 
pretend to be, he is a feeler; for we feel more than we think. If he 
is sensitive, feeling must attend and direct his analysis and assist his 
apprehension of feeling in the object. Maybe such feeling is another 
word for taste or for what Eliot calls sensibility. If, ignoring his com- 
mendation, we fear the subjective with all its horrors of irrelevance 
and eccentricity, we must try to endure our condition; and if, in this 
doubtful region, fearing the danger of obscurantism, we long for 
Euclid, we must recall that the symbol, occupying another region, 
does what discourse cannot do. The best equipment for a critic of 
symbolist literature may be what Keats called Negative Capability: 
"being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reach- 
ing after fact and reason," and "remaining content with half-knowl- 

The principal justification of the analyses which constitute the 
greater part of this essay is displaying the text and calling those parts 


to notice that might be missed by a more casual approach. Partly 
intended, moreover, to illustrate the kinds of symbol, my analyses 
are exemplary in that sense alone. Far from exhausting the texts or 
preventing further interpretation, they invite the reader's rivalry, and 
if his response is better than mine, pleased by having helped, I 
applaud. If, however, the reader protests that since texts embody the 
indefinite, his interpretations may be infinite, I reply that indefinite 
does not mean infinite and hasten to add that all interpretation, his 
or mine, is limited by what is there before us by the symbol in its 
context, both immediate and more generally circumstantial. For the 
attempt, however vain, to find exactly what the text presents, analy- 
sis, which keeps it before us, seems as good a way as any, though not 
so all-sufficient as the austere prefer. 

For vain attempts, whether austere or warmly moral, upon a 
haunting body, let us turn to critics of Moby Dick, that great yet 
exemplary symbol. In The Enchafed Flood, an investigation of "ro- 
mantic iconography," IW. H. Auden saysn("A symbol is felt to be 
such before any possible meaning is consciously recognized; i.e., an 
object or event which is felt to be more important than reason can 
immediately explain." This seems almost unobjectionable, but, he 
continues: "A symbolic correspondence is never one to one but al- 
ways multiple, and different persons perceive different meanings.^/ 
He illustrates this point by stating what Moby Dick means to Star- 
buck, Ishmael, Ahab, and the captains of other ships. Since each 
interpretation differs from the others and each is thoroughly explicit, 
we must conclude that the meaning of the whale is both multiple 
and definite. This seems Auden's own position; for although he 
allows multiplicity of meaning, he inclines to allegory and sign, and 
we are left with a series of clear equationsj^ot multiplicity of definite 
meanings, however, but indefiniteness is the mark of the, symbol^ a 


conclusion too obscurantist perhaps for Auden's brilliant mind, a 
reasoning engine which, making signs of symbols, provides a fitting 
introduction to commentators who, like Auden's mariners, are de- 
voted to significance. 

During the course of Studies in Classic American Literature D. H. 
Lawrence comes to Moby Dick /"Of course he is a symbol Of what? 
I doubt if even Melville knew exactly. That's the best of it." Later 
on, however, reproving Melville for a transcendentalism unlike his 
own, and refusing to accept the story as "a voyage of the soul," Law- 
rence prefers to take it literally as a "sea yarn." That is a good be- 
ginning: the whale is a whale but he also seems more than whale, 
and Lawrence, unable to resist, leaves the literal story he has been 
enjoying for a definite interpretation in the light of his philosophy: 
"What then is Moby Dick? he is the deepest blood-being of the 
white race. . . . And he is hunted ... by the maniacal fanaticism of 
our white mental consciousness." If we contemplate the image of the 
whale, we must admit that it embodies sexual suggestions. That it 
presents the phallic being endangered by the mind is possible, but 
it seems illiberal to exclude possibilities which are as plainly em- 
bodied. Each of us, carrying his own baggage to the symbol, admires 
what he has brought without care for what the pile obscures. The 
symbol seems to invite this undertaking; and our excuse must be 
that we find it hard to endure the indefinite. 

The mediaeval bestiary includes the whale. In the first part of 
the verses devoted to that "fish," he is described, and in the second his 
significance is defined. This emblematic habit of mind, persisting to 
our day, limits or disembodies Moby Dick, who, becoming a mirror 
for critics, "represents" or "signifies" their anthropological, political, 
sociological, or psychological concerns. Almost as if he had such 
critics in mind, Melville includes the following quotation in his 


prefatory extracts: "'My God! Mr. Chace, what is the matter?' I 
answered, 'We have been stove by a whale.' " 

Although William Ellery Sedgwick calls the whale an "emblem" 
of the mystery of creation, he refuses to make definite equations of 
symbols: "No statement as to their meaning can convey how vital, 
how meaningful these symbols are. Separately and in relation to 
each other [the whale, Ahab, and the sea] will not be held to any 
final definition or any fixed subject-object relationship." Interrelated 
yet unlimited, he continues, they baffle the intellect. Charles Feidel- 
son, who agrees that the symbol is supralogical, finds Moby Dicf( a 
philosophical quest. Seeking vision through images of whale and 
sea, the voyaging mind approaches Emersonian knowledge of reality. 
Although Newton Arvin confuses Melville with himself at times 
and parodies Dante at others, the literal, Freudian, moral, and mythi- 
cal meanings of his whale fail, as he says, to exhaust it. For other 
men other whales. 1* 

Not entirely aware, perhaps, of what he was composing, Melville 
was conscious enough to include passages which serve not only as 
elements of his book but apparently as clues to how we are to take 
it and how not. At the Spouter Inn, for example, Ishmael confronts 
a painting "so thoroughly besmoked, and every way defaced, that in 
the unequal cross-lights by which you viewed it, it was only by dili- 
gent study and a series of systematic visits to it, and careful inquiry 
of the neighbors, that you could any way arrive at an understanding" 
of "such unaccountable masses of shades and shadows." Contemplat- 
ing this obscure and marvelous object, he is puzzled yet compelled 
by its "indefinite sublimity" to try to find what it is. "Ever and 
anon a bright, but, alas, deceptive idea would dart you through. 
It's the Black Sea in a midnight gale. It's a blasted heath. It's 
a Hyperborean winter scene. It's the breaking-up of the ice-bound 


stream of time. But at last all these fancies yielded to that one por- 
tentous something in the picture's midst." His "theory," tentative 
and based in part upon the opinions of many aged persons, is that 
the portentous something in the middle is a whale. This painting is 
plainly an analogy for the book. Ishmael's compulsive attempt at 
explanation corresponds to the predicament and endeavor of reader, 
critic, and maybe the author. It is worth noting that Ishmael, content 
at last with discovering the image, stops short of its significance 
though his preliminary speculations about it are better than those 
of most critics. 

A little later Father Mapple finds a definite lesson in the story 
of Jonah and the whale. That this, however, is not how to take the 
story of Ahab and the whale is suggested by the Ecuadorian dou- 
bloon, nailed by Ahab to the mast as an incentive to the discovery of 
Moby Dick. This golden coin from the center of the earth, richly 
stamped with a design of three mountains, a tower, a flame, a cock, 
and half the zodiac, revered by the mariners as the White Whale's 
talisman, invites interpretation. In "some monomaniac way" Ahab 
finds these strange figures significant; for as they say in Emersonian 
Concord, "some certain significance lurks in all things, else all things 
are little worth, and the round world itself but an empty cipher, 
except to sell by the cartload, as they do hills about Boston, to fill 
up some morass in the Milky Way." Not only monomaniac but ego- 
centric, Ahab sees the coin as an image of himself and the world, 
which "to each and every man in turn but mirrors back his own 
mysterious self." Healthier but allegorical, Starbuck sees the sun 
as God, the valleys as our life, and the three mountains, "in some 
faint earthly symbol," as the Trinity. Stubb, fixing upon the zodiac, 
thinks of Bowditch and the cycle of life. Flask sees the coin as money 
for cigars: "There's another rendering now; but still one text." Only 


feeble-minded Pip, a critic of critics, makes an admirable comment: 
"I look, you look, he looks; we look, ye look, they look." We are left 
with the object and lookers at it; but whether monomaniac, eccentric, 
or practical, these lookers are mistaken. Far from being a clue to 
the interpretation of the book, as some critics have taken it, this 
episode of the doubloon shows how not to interpret Moby Dicl^ or 
any other symbolic form. 

The chapter on the whiteness of the whale seems more exemplary. 
"What the White Whale was to Ahab, has been hinted," says Ish- 
mael. "What, at times, he was to me, as yet remains unsaid." Taking 
a quality for the whole, he finds whiteness ambivalent, full of war- 
ring contraries, and universal. A "vague, nameless horror" on the 
one hand, it serves on the other to "symbolize whatever grand or 
gracious thing." Few are "entirely conscious" of the effect of white- 
ness in either of its aspects. Even Ishmael, who is conscious enough, 
finds the meaning of whiteness so "well nigh ineffable" that he al- 
most despairs of putting it into "a comprehensible form"; and "to 
analyse it would seem impossible." By analogy and example, calling 
upon white towers, white mountains, and white seas, he suggests 
"the nameless things of which the mystic sign gives forth such 
hints." Is it "a dumb blankness, full of meaning?" he asks. "Is it 
that by its indefiniteness it shadows forth the heartless voids and 
immensities of the universe?" After such questions, analogies, ex- 
amples, and contradictions, which build up the feeling and idea of 
indefiniteness, he concludes: "And of all these things the Albino 
Whale was the symbol." 

Let us see how that symbol is composed. By description Melville 
presents the whale's indifference, its ferocity, and its "uncommon 
bulk." By the action and the nature of the sea, the ship, and the quest 
he improves the whale's solidity and complicates his import. "The 


overwhelming idea of the great whale himself" is further qualified 
by the thoughts of those in quest of him: Ahab's idea of him as the 
"incarnation" of all evil and Ishmael's idea of him as a thing of the 
"wonder-world," a "grand hooded phantom" which, midmost in the 
"endless processions of the whale" that floated through his soul, 
seemed "a snow hill in the air." From discursive chapters on the 
whale's anatomy, the history of whaling, the process of trying whales 
out, and the like, the image acquires greater body and depth as 
Somerset Maugham, omitting these elements from his edition, failed 
to see. "Taken with context," however, as Father Mapple observes, 
"this is full of meaning." His observation, which refers to an incident 
of Jonah's life, may be taken as a reference to Melville's whale; for 
the monster, like Dr. Eckleburg's eyes, is made by an interaction of 
image and context. 

Melville's success in shaping them to embody his vision of reality 
is proved by the variety of critical interpretation. Working within 
the limits of his fixation or his gift, each critic takes an aspect or 
two of Melville's vision as the whole, and each is more or less justi- 
fied by parts of image or context. Those who are fitted to find 
sociological or political significance are encouraged by the emblem- 
atic ending of the book. Those who are devoted to Freud find evi- 
dence in Ahab's missing leg. Those who prefer the metaphysical find 
ample corroboration everywhere. But that whale in context is more 
than a thing to a man. All things in heaven and earth, unassigned 
and indefinite, he embodies our feeling and thought when face to 
face with ourselves and with what surrounds us. 

To every dog his patch; but what of the undogmatic critic? If, 
preferring the whale to the part, he finds the image a general vision 
of reality, inexpressible save by itself, he incurs the danger of mo- 
notony; for the same thing might be said of Ulysses, The Trial, or 


'Bateau ivre." But, however general, each symbol is particular in 
Feeling and quality, and the critic, without trying to define the inde- 
finable, may suggest its singularity. By analysis of image and con- 
text he may reveal the shape of the image, the relation of part to 
part and to the whole, and the function of each part. For aid he may 
consult the author's intention, if he can, and the circumstances of 
time and place. Anything goes as long as, decently skeptical of all 
else, we remember that the text is the thing and that the symbol, an 
apparent object, is the object. Contemplating that appearance, we 
may find it becoming what Wallace Stevens calls a "transparence," 
but if, like Ahab and his critics, we find it becoming a mirror, we 
must look again. 


Roses and Calipers 

. HERE IS difference in nature and function between the roses of 
Dante and Yeats, or, to take less florid examples, there is an even 
more apparent difference between Donne's compasses and Wallace 
Stevens's caliper or between Donne's flea and Kafka's cockroaclj) 
Philosophy, psychology, and the explication of texts may help us 
to approach these symbols, but here our immediate problem or its 
greater part is time. To find how and why the romantic symbol 
differs from those of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance we must 
supplement analysis by history. "For the analysis of every symbolic 
form," says Cassirer, "we are dependent on historical data." 

At the beginning of his Comedy Dante finds himself in a dark 
wood. Quitting that intolerable place and about to commence the 
ascent of a hill toward the sun, he meets a spotted leopard, a lion, and 
a she-wolf. Their demeanor is bestial, and he retreats to await the 
support of Vergil, who understands these matters. At the end of 
his Comedy Dante, guided now by Saint Bernard, contemplates an 
enormous rose, bathed in radiance and attended by angelic bees. 

This white flower with yellow center seems a garden of concentric 
petals within which Beatrice, the Virgin, and all the redeemed oc- 
cupy suitable chairs. Penultimate, that rose is the most impressive 
and the most efficacious of "shadowy prefaces," as Dante calls them, 
to his ultimate vision of circles and light. 

As Dante's rose is his preface to illumination so, for many of us 
today, T. S. Eliot is the preface to Dante and to such illumination as 
we enjoy. We may be less familiar with the Florentine's leopard and 
rose than with the three white leopards thatUevour the more or less 
American poet under a juniper tree in Ash Wednesday or with his 
roses and gardens. Such images, he says in his essay on Dante, need 
not worry us, for "It is really better, at the start, not to know or care 
what they do mean." All we need know is that allegory means "clear, 
visual images." They may gain intensity by having a meaning but, 
before we discover it, it is enough to be "aware that the meaning is 
there" while the brilliant images work upon our sensibilities. 

Dante and other men of the Middle Ages, not content with images, 
thought it well to have meanings in mind. Of that we can find 
assurance not only in the first question of the first part of Saint 
Thomas's Summa Theologica but also in Dante's letter to Can 
Grande, which serves as a kind of preface to the Paradiso, or in the 
Convivio, an explanation of his odes. None can understand their 
"true meaning," he says, unless he relates it "because it is hidden 
under the figure of allegory." Of the four meanings to be found in 
every work, he continues, one is literal and three are allegorical. The 
literal surface, which is most important, carries the other meanings. 

By the dark wood Dante seems to have intended the moral, politi- 
cal, and theological quandary in which he found himself at the 
middle of his life, and, beyond that, the confusion and perplexity of 
his time. The beasts, probably from Jeremiah, seem to signify sin, 


Rome, and empire. By its light, heat, and shape the sun stands for 
God in His three aspects and, below that in their degrees, the em- 
peror, perhaps, and virtue. The rose, a figure of heaven, the body of 
Christ, and the Virgin, suggests by quality and shape a vision of 
order and beatitude. In this figure Dante found appeasement for 
his religious, moral, and political troubles, and, seeing it as an artist, 
made it the unifying center of his narrative. What he calls his "poly- 
semous" method, unlike the ambiguity and paradox dear to ro- 
mantics, offers many meanings without contradiction or uncertainty. 
Interrelated, these meanings support each other to create a harmoni- 
ous world ; and the polysemous rose, though "figuring Paradise," as 
he^says, is also the image of that fiarmony. 

/Multiple meanings are not the sign of symbol Moreover, the limita- 
tion placed by Dante upon his meanings seems to forbid interpreting 
his images as symbols. But in SymboUsm in Mediej^aL Thought and 
its Consummation in^theJDivinc Comedy Helen Flanders DunJw, 
working under the auspices of Jung, finds Dante's allegory not un- 
like other less definite devices. Her symbol, defined as "an expression 
of meaningful experience" having a basis^in^ association, includes 
emBIcm, metaphor, and allegory. Depending upon the kind of as- 
sociation, symbols are of three kinds: the extrinsic, an arbitrary, as- 
sociation not to be distinguished from our sign; the intrinsic, the 
more descriptive association of metaphor; and the tOlC^y. 1 ^ ^ ^ 
insight, thejnost^important anct~Dante's favorite. A way of know- 
ing, discovering, and expressing, the insight symbol allows author 
and reader to apprehend the infinite. Ignoring dialectics, Dr. Dunbar 
holds that insight symbols, such as Dante's rose, offered men of his 
time their only way of knowing the nature of things and expressing 
it. When in the late Middle Ages the symbol became more important 
than the transcendental reality it disclosed, the method fell into de- 


cay, and we are left without it. Whatever her confusion of romantic 
with mediaeval method, Dr. Dunbar makes us wonder if Dante's 
rose, more than a sign with four definite meanings, is also an em- 
bodiment of vision and the only way of presenting it. Perhaps there 
is less difference between allegory and symbol than we had thought. 
Before deciding that, we should look at The Romance of the Rose 
and at a commentary on its method by C. S. Lewis. The first part of 
The Romance of the Rose, by Guillaume de Lorris, agrees better than 
Dante's rose with what we commonly mean by allegory; for Guil- 
laume uses personification, and his images, intellectually conceived 
before they are fitted to the idea, are separable from what they repre- 
sent. Inj^mbqlism, however, conception and embodiment arejigt 
only simultaneous but so involved that one cannot be parted irom 
tHe otEer. The symbol is the only possible embodiment of what it 
presents, whereas an allegorical image, one of several possibilities, is 
a substitute for what it represents. To project his analysis of courtly 
love, Guillaume personified each aspect of his lady. A rose on a 
bush surrounded by a hedge and by a walled garden, her love invites 
the lover's hands while her other aspects, presented as persons, help 
those hands along or prevent them. His fumbling, her courtly scru- 
ples, and the intricacies of convention could be returned to the dis- 
course whence they came without loss of sense. The loss would be 
one of color, concreteness, and charm. Lacking the resources of 
the analytic novel, Guillaume chose for his tale of sentiment the 
most entertaining method afforded by custom. In The Allegory of 
Love Lewis treats Guillaume's method as convenient personification. 
Associating symbolism with "sacramentalism" on the one hand and 
with romantic aspiration on the other, he derides those of our day 
who, preferring symbol to allegory, try to make Dante a romantic 
symbolist.fTo Lewis symbol and allegory are opposites. Starting with 


an abstraction, the allegorist produces a concrete fiction. Starting with 
a concrete fiction, the symbolist proceeds to spiritual reality. Not a 
mode of thought like symbolism or a way to mystical knowledge, 
allegory is a mode of expression^ But Lewis avoids Dante's rose as 
Dr. Dunbar his personification. 

Their disagreement, of words in part and in part of position, is 
not serious; for those scholars are talking in different terms of differ- 
ent aspects of a thing that manifests itself along a scale from sign 
to symbol. Lewis limits himself to one extreme and Dr. Dunbar to 
the other. Historically minded, he sees his signs as they were in- 
tended; from her position as psychologist, she sees her symbols as 
romantics must. 

However various in origin and function, both allegory and symbol 
are analogies. Occupying one end of our scale, allegory, an extended 
simile, as Lewis says, is limited in meaning; but even the most definite 
personifications of The Romance of the Rose carry something beyond 
intention or significance; for if the artist is good, he must embody 
more than he thinks. Dante's beasts, more signs than symbols per- 
haps, are not without symbolic value. His rose, at the other end 
of the scale, may have four definite meanings, but what it is and 
what it suggests are more important or seem so to us than what it 
signifies.^Every symbol, we recall, contains a sign or signs as every 
sign may serve as symboO 

The word allegory, sometimes the mediaeval term for what we 
would call symbol and sometimes a term for sign, appears to be a 
principal trouble. If Lewis, forgetting his adherence to allegory, calls 
his images and personifications symbols at times, he has ample 
precedent for his confusion. Dr. Johnson and Baudelaire, as well as 
Melville and many others, used allegory and symbol as interchange- 
able words; but most men of our time are as prejudiced against the 


word allegory as against the thing it has come to stand for. Yeats, 
for example, in his essay on "William Blake and His Illustrations to 
The Divine Comedy" separates "symbolic imagination" from alle- 
gory, "one of many possible representations of an embodied thing." A 
product of fancy and memory, allegory is no better than an amuse- 
ment; whereas symbol, a product of "wizard frenzy," is a revelation. 
"I tore up hundreds of pages," says Yeats, "in my endeavour to es- 
cape from allegory." 

His distaste for "sterile" allegory was natural; for allegory in its 
present sense of limited analogy with high significance is an un- 
fashionable art. Since Pilgrim's Progress, in point of fact, there have 
been few examples. Swift used it in A Tale of a Tub and George Or- 
well in Animal Farm, but on the whole, lacking certainty, we prefer 
indefinite analogies. Definite analogies, such as the allegory and 
metaphor of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, were designed 
to present not abstractions alone but the nature of things. If we are 
to distinguish these limited instruments more plainly from the ro- 
mantic symbol that we prefer, we must consider two worlds. The 
first of these, which R. G. Collingwood in his Idea of Nature calls 
"organic," lasted from the time of Pythagoras to the late seventeenth 
century. The second, which replaced it, is mechanical in one of its 
aspects and developmental in another. What we call the romantic 
movement is the endeavor to make the world organic again. 

The organic or harmonious world of the Middle Ages and the 
Renaissance, excellently described in E. M. W. Tillyard's Elizabethan 
World Picture, took the form of a hierarchy of being. Commonly con- 
ceived as a chain or ladder, this great order accommodated the lowest, 
the highest, and the intermediate. In its comfortable coherence, an- 
gels, men, and vegetables accepted their place without quarreling 
about it. Above man, who occupied the center of this chain, the links 


were crowded, as the pseudo-Dionysius affirms, by angels in their 
degrees, archangels near the bottom, cherubs and seraphs at the 
top, and above that God Himself. Below central man came animals, 
vegetables, and minerals, each of which, like angels above, composed 
a hierarchy below. The lion or sometimes the eagle occupied top 
place among animals and the oyster the indubitable bottom. Below 
him, beans and cabbages, gold and lead found appropriate places. A 
parallel chain of four elements, with fire at the top, and lateral ex- 
tensions to include the body politic, the planets, and all other things 
completed what Sir Thomas Browne calls "the ladder and scale of 
creatures," of which each deserved its place by proportion of matter 
and spirit. A seraph may have been impaired by one percent of mat- 
ter, an oyster improved by one percent of spirit or less but man 
enjoyed about fifty percent of each, though even he composed an 
order, according to capacity, from king to knave. Within man the 
faculties (such as reason), the virtues (such as justice and fortitude), 
and the organs formed additional hierarchies which imitated the 
structure of all things; for man was the microcosm. 

Hierarchy was linked to hierarchy by affinities or analogies by 
which the noblest occupant of each order corresponded to the noblest 
of the others. The king, for example, found himself on a footing 
of congeniality with the lion, the sun, fire, gold, and the subtlest 
among vegetables maybe the rose. Dante's lion, sun, rose, and all 
his other analogies, celebrating things as they were, commended God, 
the emperor, justice, and reason. As definite as the logic of Saint 
Thomas, allegory was a proper instrument for revealing this definite 
world; yet the overtones and suggestions embodied in the most defi- 
nite analogies expressed the wonder and, in spite of logical assurance, 
the mystery of things. 

Renaissance analogies, while similar to the cool equations of the 


Middle Ages, says Tillyard, were less exact. As identity declined into 
resemblance, allegory was generally replaced by metaphor, and, al- 
though remaining the king, the sun became something like him as 
well. This gradual development, interrupted by allegorical Spenser 
and Bunyan, may be ascribed in part to the effect of Copernicus and 
Galileo and in part to humanism. While celebrating the old relation- 
ship of things on one hand, metaphor expresses a shadow of doubt 
on the other. To Dr. Johnson, who inhabited the mechanical world, 
Donne's metaphor, seeming not only alien but ambivalent, was a 
"discordia concors" a concordant discord. Discordia, the noun to be 
qualified, occupies the center. Whatever his misunderstanding of an 
obsolete world and its ways, Dr. Johnson was right in placing dis- 
cord above harmony in some of the metaphors of Donne; for that 
poet, who knew his Copernicus, was less certain of the order he 
sometimes sang than some of his successors, Sir Thomas Browne, 
for example, or Andrew Marvell, whose metaphors affirm the chain 
of being as faithfully as Dante's allegory. 

Metaphor, an analogy in which the elements compared are at once 
similar and dissimilar, may take the form of an equation of stated 
elements or an image by which one term is presented while the 
other remains implicit. Unlike allegory, the metaphysical metaphor 
generally consists of a complete equation. It may range from con- 
venient expression, like Guillaume's allegory, to essential embodi- 
ment, like that of Dante at his most sublime, uniting regions of 
reality and presenting their connections. It may range from an in- 
nocent and somewhat primitive acceptance of identity to an aware- 
ness of analogy as analogy. It may include decoration, in the case 
of John Cleveland, or substance as in the poems of Donne. Before 
we proceed with the metaphysical*, however, it is fitting to consult 
authority on metaphor. 


"Every metaphor," says C. S. Lewis, "is an allegory in little." W. 
B. Yeats in his edition of Blake's prophetic works says: "All poetic 
metaphors are symbols." But Aristotle and Dante calls him the 
master of those that know says in his Poetics that metaphor "con- 
sists in giving the thing a name that belongs to something else; the 
transference being either from genus to species, or from species to 
genus, or from species to species, or on grounds of analogy." To de- 
scend a little, however, and provide an easy transition back to the 
metaphysicals : Caroline Spurgeon, defining metaphor as a "likeness 
between dissimilar things," finds that it "holds within itself the very 
secret of the universe." In the Renaissance at least and she is speak- 
ing of Shakespeare it did that. 

When Richard Crashaw compared the eyes of his weeper to "porta- 
ble and compendious oceans" or a sort of bathtub, he had no sense 
of incongruity; for as Sir Thomas Browne observes: "There are no 
grotesques in nature." Crashaw's portable ocean may be less com- 
pendious than MarvelFs Platonic ocean, an analogy for mind, "where 
each kind does straight its own resemblance find," but it is from 
the same geography. Comparing a drop of dew to the soul, the one 
a little globe reflecting its native element, the other a thing whose 
"circling thoughts express the greater heaven in an heaven less," 
Marvell fixed the relationship of microcosm to macrocosm. ("Are 
we struck with admiration," asks Coleridge in The Statesman's 
Manual, "at beholding the cope of heaven imaged in a dewdrop?") 
When Marvell defined desperate love by analogies of poles, plani- 
sphere, parallels that never meet, and planetary opposition, he not 
only recreated the structure of reality but created a structure sug- 
gestive of feeling to which each unlikely metaphor contributes. Wit, 
the power of perceiving and using the analogies that nature affords, 
may be more than what romantics were to call fancy. 


Metaphor and symbol are plainly of a family. When Yeats in his 
"Symbolism of Poetry" said that metaphors are not "profound" 
enough to be moving unless they are symbols, he implied that meta- 
phor can serve as symbol, though what he meant by "profound" is 
not entirely plain. Maybe a metaphor seems profound when com- 
paratively unlimited by equation, when only one term is given, or 
when the terms evade reason by incongruity. Marvell's "Definition 
of Love" proves that metaphor can act as an element in a composite 
symbol. It is possible, moreover, to regard one term of a metaphorical 
equation as the symbol of the other or their interaction as creative. 
In the metaphysical metaphor, however, the usual equation of the 
terms limits meaning more than romantics would think suitable; for 
to them a metaphor, though of the same kind as symbol, would 
seem too narrowly assigned to be one. The early seventeenth century, 
a time when the old world was still more vital than the new, found 
the generous assignment of metaphor appropriate. 

That old world was not to endure. The uncertainty that qualifies 
many metaphysical equations and the growing consciousness of 
resemblance rather than actuality in the most definite equations 
are signs of a world's death. The dissociation of sensibility that T. S. 
Eliot laments is another sign of this death and not, as he once thought, 
the unfortunate consequence of Milton's verse. To be sure, Milton, 
who could confuse seraphs with archangels, shows the uncertainty 
that attended the breaking of an order, but the effect that Eliot 
ascribed to him could be ascribed with greater reason to the advance- 
ment of science, the incursion of classical ideals, and the rise of puri- 
tanism. The old world died, and with it, as Marjorie Nicolson points 
out in her Breaking of the Circle, went the system of analogies that 
had composed it. Metaphor, no longer a method appropriate to the 
nature of things, became detachable and decorative simile. The chain 


of being was broken in the middle, the upper half, fallen away, was 
lost to mind, and men retired with relief to the lower half, where 
they remained contented for a hundred years. Whatever the virtues 
of the enlightenment, it was bad for analogy. Reason proved adequate 
for exploring or expressing what remained, and not enough of the 
ineffable was left around to urge recourse to symbol. 

Symbol, as we know it today, emerged during the romantic move- 
ment, which is best understood perhaps as an attempt to recover 
the upper half of the broken chain and, uniting it with the lower, 
to create something like the lost world of the Middle Ages and the 
Renaissance. The upper half of this restoration, however, acquired 
new meanings. Not only the place of spirit, it came to mean the 
imaginative, the subjective, the unconscious, or sensibility, separated 
by that famous dissociation from fact and reason, which continued 
to occupy the lower half of the chain. An enemy of Newton, Locke, 
and dark satanic mills, Blake commended what he called "vision" 
oj imagination. 

^Coleridge, the principal authority on imagination, defines it in 
Biographia Literaria, the ode to Dejection, and elsewhere. Taking 
issue with his friend Wordsworth, who confused imagination with 
fancy in the Preface to the 1815 edition of his poems, Coleridge, as 
everybody knows, distinguished sharply between fancy, "the aggre- 
gative and associative power/' and imagination, the "shaping spirit." 
This "vital" faculty dissolves and dissipates in order to re-create, 
whereas fancy is a mode of memory that finds its materials by the law 
of association. Fancy accounts for allegory and metaphor, imagina- 
tion for symbol, at once its "educt" and its instrument. This "reconcil- 
ing and mediatory power . . . gives birth to a system of symbols, 
harmonious in themselves, and consubstantial with the truths of 
which they are the conductors." In The Statesman's Manual he says: 


"by a symbol I mean, not a metaphor or allegory or any other figure 
of speech or form of fancy, but an actual and essential part of that, 
the whole of which it represents." 

Now an allegory is but a translation of abstract notions into a picture- 
language, which is itself nothing but an abstraction from objects of the 
senses; the principal being more worthless even than its phantom proxy, 
both alike unsubstantial, and the former shapeless to boot. On the other 
hand a symbol ... is characterized by a translucence of the special in 
the individual, or of the general in the special, or of the universal in 
the general; above all by the translucence of the eternal through and in 
the temporal. It always partakes of the reality which it renders intelligible; 
and while it enunciates the whole, abides itself as a living part in that 
unity of which it is the representation. I 

His hostility to metaphorical association did not include analogy. 
Metaphor, he said in Aids to Reflection, expresses difference by re- 
semblance; analogy or symbol, on the other hand, finding sameness 
essential, presents the thing in itself. Maybe it was the limitation of 
metaphor and the deliberateness of eighteenth-century simile that 
turned him away from these comparisons. 

It is plain that Coleridge valued the symbol for helping him pass 
from matter to spirit or giving him the feeling of that passage. His 
"translucence/' different from Wallace Stevens's "transparence," is 
that of a frosted window opening upon the infinite and the eternal, 
matters that the age of cool reason chose to neglect. Maybe the frost- 
ing discouraged Voltaire; but Coleridge, valuing the lower half of 
the chain for its power to accost a possible upper and surprise it into 
approximate revelation, is not unlike Carlyle or Emerson, who found 
symbols equally useful. 

In Sartor Resartus Carlyle attends to the "high transcendental as- 
pects of the matter." Nowhere, he says, was his Professor more "im- 


palpable" than in his remarks on man, who, like Cassirer's symbol- 
making animal, lives and works consciously or unconsciously in and 
through and by symbols. Though based upon "the small Visible," the 
Professor's man "does nevertheless extend down into the infinite 
deeps of the Invisible, of which Invisible, indeed, his Life is properly 
the bodying forth." In this context, deeps, equivalent to altitudes, are 
no less transcendental, though more interior perhaps. Finding mecha- 
nism and logic inadequate and imagination irrelevant unless it main- 
tains at least a toe upon fact, the Professor finds symbols a way of 
joining "mystic wonderment" with "the small prose domain of 

f Remarking "the benignant efficacies of Concealment," and of 
Silence as well, he continues: "Of kin to the so incalculable influences 
of Concealment, and connected with still greater things, is the won- 
drous agency of Symbols. In a Symbol there is concealment and yet 
revelation: here therefore by Silence and by Speech acting together, 
comes a double significance/ That the bearing of this nondiscursive 
agency is less secular than transcendental is almost immediately ap- 
parent: "In the Symbol proper . . . there is ever, more or less dis- 
tinctly and directly, some embodiment and revelation of the Infinite; 
the Infinite is made to blend itself with the Finite, to stand visible, 
and as it were, attainable there." Whether extrinsic (arbitrary or 
conventional), intrinsic (artistic) or divine, the symbol reveals "Eter- 
nity looking through Time" and affords "some dimmer or clearer 
revelation of the God-like."|Not uncommonly that revelation, con- 
cealing more than it revealed, was dimmer than clearer during a 
period of unsatisfied search and cosmic reconstruction that produced 
Moby Dicf( and the essays of Emerson. 

Detecting no "accurate adjustment" between matter and spirit, 
Emerson in essays on the poet and on nature turns away from na- 


turc as the field of science to nature as the symbol of spirit. However 
inaccurate, such natural symbolism provides a kind of adjustment 
between the regions and, what may be of more interest to us, between 
the objective and the subjective. Not only "the dial plate" of the 
supernatural, nature is "a metaphor of the human mind," but what 
dials indicate or metaphors connect remains uncertain: "For all sym- 
bols are fluxional." Emerson reproves those who, enamored of defi- 
niteness, try to make what symbols bear "too stark and solid," since 
what they bear may be less impressive than what they are. "I find 
that the fascination resides in the symbol." He also rests content with 
the imagination, which by making things "translucid," enables him 
to make analogies and to guess their meaning. 

Unlike Dante or Marvell, these transcendentalists used the symbol 
not to express or to explore the upper half of the chain but to assure 
themselves of its possibility. Dante and Marvell had a good idea of 
what their images embodied, but the transcendentalists of the early 
nineteenth century, lacking news of translunary things, and honest 
about their ignorance, could expect intimations alone. However con- 
crete their symbolic instrument, it revealed the indefinite or the un- 
knowable; and to our own romantic but less transcendental day the 
symbol has retained something of the character they gave it. At once 
prevented and teased by their instrument, they made the symbol a 
way to what feels like knowledge and its only expression; for, like 
mystics coming home, these feelers could not translate their feelings 
into prose. 

To apprehend the romantic symbol a little better, let us consult 
example with Emerson's verses from the essay "Nature" as a suit- 
able prelude: 

A subtle chain of countless rings 
The next unto the farthest brings; 


The eye reads omens where it goes, 
And speaks all languages the rose. 

Speaking Tuscan, Dante's rose offers four definite meanings or, by 
his own account at least, was cultivated for that purpose. Beyond these 
references, which footnotes help us understand, the rose embodies 
his feelings and by the aid of context presents feelings which may or 
may not be the same as his. But this indefinite meaning, although 
affirming the rose as more than allegorical and comprising after the 
decay of his convention almost the only meaning that persists, is 
secondary. With Yeats's English-speaking rose, the proportions of 
definite and indefinite are reversed. A difference not only of garden 
but of season and climate is the reason of that. 

When in the 1890$ Yeats wrote poems of the rose, the definite 
meanings, less important than the indefinite, were multiple. Devot- 
ing poems to aspects, he bestowed, as he tells us by context or in 
notes, these meanings on his fading rose: political in part by local 
tradition, she is Dark Rosaleen or Ireland herself; philosophically, 
she is all but Shelley's intellectual beauty on one hand and on the 
other the flower of Rosicrucians or spirit nailed by time upon the 
cross of matter; alchemically for Yeats was an alchemist too she 
signifies the great work of transmuting matter into spirit or, by in- 
creasing its spiritual content, of promoting it a little along the chain ; 
aesthetically, she represents that organization of elements, even of 
opposites, that provides catharsis and peace; and, as my pronoun 
should make plain, she is woman. By embracing nation, love, and 
the occult, this rose, at once fleshly and ideal, contains his three cen- 
tral interests, the conflicts among them, and his hope of reconcilia- 
tion. In "The Rose of Battle," the flower, though made of matter 
from flux and time, is eternal. In "The Rose Upon the Rood of 
Time," she embodies the more pneumatic of two conflicting opposites 


and presides over a dangerous compromise between them. Including 
fear and desire, quarrel and peace, the many-petaled form expresses 
his quandary. However clear to Yeats, these meanings, dependent 
upon private association and upon traditions more or less obscure or 
so familiar as to seem obvious, become no more than possible to us 
and, because rather than in spite of multiplicity, indefinite. In a 
note to one of his poems in the 1899 volume Yeats said: "This poem 
has always meant a great deal to me, though as is the way with 
symbolic poems, it has not always meant quite the same thing." To 
depend upon privacy or even upon traditions in an age without them 
is no way to fix your meanings. But even assuming an awareness of 
these multiple meanings and calling them definite, we must agree 
that the greater part of that flower remains unlimited. 

"The Secret Rose" is a poem invoking a flower not only most secret 
but far-oflf and inviolate. Describing the rose by a passing reference to 
great enfolding leaves, and defining it in the loosest fashion, Yeats 
tries to support the idea of a flower with circumstances that should 
limit or expand it. Men have sought his rose, he tells us, in the Holy 
Sepulchre, the wine vat, beauty, and beyond defeated dreams. Seek- 
ing rather than sought, his rose has enfolded the three Magi, who 
may be magicians as well as kings, and Irish heroes such as Cuchu- 
lain, Conchubar, and Fergus. Such support proving inadequate, he 
decides to "await" something, maybe a revelation such as came to 
Magus or hero. Ending the poem with a question mark makes it 
plain that although he desires a rose and feels it deeply, he does 
not know for sure with what manner of plant he has to do or what 
it symbolizes; and in his title the word "Secret" may mean hidden, 
remote, unknowable, ineffable, or indefinable. At this period of his 
development he was a seeker like Emerson and equally transcen- 
dental, but what was "translucid" to Emerson was all but opaque to 


Yeats. His rose, beyond all multiple reference, is a device not only for 
straining the radiance of eternity but for expressing his obsessive un- 
certainties and, like other romantic symbols, for suggesting what dis- 
course cannot handle. It may be, as Yeats said, that man, unable to 
know truth, can embody it, but the trouble with his "symbolic rose" is 
that, although named and vaguely circumscribed, it lacks body, 
whereas Dante's rose, palpable and heavenly although assigned, has 
body enough to please the imagination. 

In Dante's world of certainties, for which allegory was suitable, 
imagination and fact were one. In Donne's world, although falling 
apart, they maintained some connection. But Yeats, in his romantic 
time, found himself engaged in a war between imagination and 
fact that had persisted inconclusively for years. Making a stand, how- 
ever insecure, in the upper half of their divided reality, the more 
romantic of two ignorant armies, spurned the lower half of matter 
and fact, which was occupied securely by scientists, rationalists, and 
men of affairs. That these practical men were no less belligerent is 
proved by the opening scene of Hard Times. " 'Now, what I want 
is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. . . . We hope 
to have, before long, a board of fact, composed of commissioners of 
fact, who will force the people to be a people of fact, and of nothing 
but fact. You must discard the word Fancy altogether.' " Thomas 
Gradgrind, who says this, is a retired wholesaler of hardware, who 
"proceeds upon the principle that two and two are four, and nothing 
over." "He seemed a galvanizing apparatus, too, charged with a 
grim mechanical substitute for the tender young imaginations that 
were to be swept away." As we might suppose, his children, like ra- 
tional young John Stuart Mill, suffer from "starved imagination." 
Leaving victims by the way, partisans of either side illustrate the 


dissociation of sensibility from thought and fact that Eliot made us 
aware of. 

The symbol, though drawing substance from the lower half of 
reality, was used at first by partisans of imagination to affirm the 
upper half or at least to call it to mind. Yeats's rose upon the rood 
of time seems an example of that usage; but however hostile to 
science and reason in his youth, Yeats was unable to forget their 
claims upon him, and even in this poem he asks the invited rose 
not to come too near lest, filling him entirely, it end his concern 
with the world of nature, nation, and love. Whatever their delicacy 
and seeming confusion, the petals of the rose spring from a common 
center, and although once used to separate the areas of reality, the 
symbol is better adapted to joining them. It is not surprising that 
writers of the later romantic movement, trying to unite the halves of 
reality, found symbols the agents or celebrants of union. About ten 
years after Yeats wrote his poems of the rose, he called for "unity 
of being," and, directing poems to that end, began to use symbols to 
join his worlds and acclaim their identity. "By the help of an image," 
he said, "I call to my own opposite." 

The most famous of such images is the circling moon, which, 
passing in the course of a month from darkness to light through 
phases of partial illumination and back to darkness, embodies all 
warring opposites and reconciles their disagreements. The fortnight 
of greater light, equivalent to the upper half of our chain, is the 
residence of imagination, spirit, Platonic ideas, sensibility, and sub- 
jective life. In the darker half of the circle, equivalent to the lower 
half of the chain, reside matter, fact, and all mechanical crude things. 
But pure only when disembodied, spirit and matter cooperate in the 
other twenty-six phases, where they are proportionately embodied. 


The man of greater imagination, incarnated in the upper half, must 
find expression or mask in the lower. Including psychology, religion, 
history, and aesthetics, the wheeling moon unites again all sublunary 
with all translunary things, and the circle, broken in the seventeenth 
century, as Marjorie Nicolson tells us, resumes something of its an- 
cient shape. But the old circle was public, and Yeats's restoration was 
for himself alone. What is more, less circle than gyre when looked 
at from the side, his symbolic figure carries modern suggestions of 
development, not those of static perfection which used to surround 
the image. 

Wallace Stevens, making imagination and fact his theme, employs 
symbol not only to display those conflicting opposites but to unite 
them and present their synthesis. To be sure his antitheses of moon 
and sun, blue and green, north and south are closer to sign than 
symbol, but he uses symbol within this significant frame. When in 
"The Comedian as the Letter C" imaginative Crispin goes to sea, 
his "barber's eye" attributes mustachios to "silentious porpoises" in 
vain; for sea is fact and, despite imaginative evasion, Crispin is all 
at sea. The jungle of Yucatan to which he voyages is also "quintes- 
sential fact," but Carolina, midway between north and south, blue 
and green, is more suitable. Here like a florist "asking aid from 
cabbages," he makes "prose" or fact "wear a poem's guise at last." 
Daughters with Curls are his solution and his final symbol. A daugh- 
ter is a natural thing, a matter of fact in fact. Add curls and she be- 
comes to one like Crispin, who has a barber's eye, a triumph of im- 
agination and art. A daughter with curls embodies and presents 
the parts of reality in agreeable synthesis or what Stevens calls "bliss- 
ful liaison"; and fact and fiction, whatever their quarrel, become one 

The French symbolists, standing behind Stevens if not Yeats, mark 


the second stage of tlie romantic movement. These poets used symbol 
not so much to unite worlds as to create them, but their origin in 
transcendentalism is plain. In "The Purloined Letter," Edgar A. 
Poe, to whom they confessed a debt, says: "The material world 
abounds with very strict analogies to the immaterial." Starting there, 
they proceeded by a process beyond Poe's capacity. "Une fois, par 
un minuit lugubre, tandis que je m'appesantissais, faible et fatigue, 
sur maint curieux et bizarre volume de savoir oublie. . . ." When 
Poe's raven, transformed utterly by Mallarme, says "Jamais plus," a 
terrible beauty is born. 

Transforming Poe's essay on the raven, Baudelaire renders the 
poet's intention of making the bird "emblematical of Mournful and 
Never-ending Remembrance" as "1'intention de faire du Corbeau le 
symbole du souvenir funebre et eternel." But when in "Correspond- 
ances," his sonnet on the symbol, Baudelaire says: 

La Nature est un temple ou de vivants piliers 
Laissent parfois sortir de confuses paroles: 
L'homme y passe a travers des forets de symboles 
Qui 1'observent avec des regards familiers, 

he does not differ in substance or image from Emerson, who in his 
essay on the poet calls nature "a temple whose walls are covered with 
emblems . . . and the distinctions which we make in events . . . 
disappear when nature is used as a symbol." Baudelaire's symbol, 
however, differs from Emerson's by uniting not only nature and 
spirit with confused words but, confusing the senses with one an- 
other, by uniting parts of this world. Neither Baudelaire nor his 
semblables drew fine distinctions between symbol, emblem, allegory, 
sign, and image, all of which meant symbol. Sometimes he used 
parallel metaphors, sometimes traditional symbols, and sometimes 


those images of city life, rag pickers, dead horses, or garbage, that 
T. S. Eliot was to find congenial and useful as embodiments of our 
social, subjective, or spiritual condition. Principally, however, the 
poem itself, a structure of image, rhythm, and tone, served Baudelaire 
as symbol. 

That he is a transitional figure, standing midway between Emerson 
and Mallarme, is apparent from his prose. Accepting Coleridge's 
creative and unifying imagination, Baudelaire finds this "queen of 
the faculties" of service in a double capacity. In the first place she 
can detect and arrange materials offered by memory or by nature, 
that great dictionary of analogies. "The visible universe," he says in 
his "Salon de 1859," "is only a store of images and signs to which 
imagination gives place and relative value; it is a kind of fodder 
that the imagination must digest and transform." In the second place, 
moving beyond existing analogies, the queenly faculty has power to 
create new ones, "la plus haute fiction" for example, or what Wallace 
Stevens, one of Baudelaire's most distinguished followers, came to 
call a "supreme fiction." Since art is not copying nature, imagination 
must create a world to replace the uncomfortable and divided world 
in which the poet finds himself. This private world, aesthetically or- 
ganized, is self-subsistent like Poe's work of art; and imagination in 
her second capacity also unites Baudelaire with Mallarme and later 
makers. In his survey of Baudelaire's tradition, Marcel Raymond, 
dividing poets into two kinds, those who followed Baudelaire the 
seer and those who followed Baudelaire the artist, supports the idea 
of his transitional duality. As seer the great poet belongs with the 
earlier transcendentalists and as artist with those who, finding aes- 
thetic construction a substitute for cosmic reconstruction, made some- 
thing like autonomous worlds. 

Such worlds served Mallarme as symbols. Without intended refer- 


ence to external reality, his worlds or poems are "inclosed." Fictions 
or virtual realities, they exist as a piece of music does, by symmetry, 
interaction of parts, and what he called "reciprocal reflections." A 
poem, he observed, is "a geometry of phrases" which, not logically 
but symphonically arranged, is as far as possible from discourse and 
so is his discourse. Unfortunately words, the elements of poems, have 
reference; and to purify the language of the tribe, he transformed 
habitual and faded significance by syntactical dislocation until words, 
remade in this manner, make a "total word," new, strange, and 
incantatory. That this "marvelous organization" is a world cannot 
astonish us; for the transition from word to world is familiar. That 
his world or poem is a symbol may be harder to accept; for what 
it symbolizes is a question. His assurance that what it "suggests" or 
"evokes" he uses both words is at once precise and indefinable 
seems not enough; but during an interview, or what the French call 
an inquest, he said that symbolism consists in evoking an object 
little by little in order to reveal a state of mind or, inversely, choos- 
ing an object and from it disengaging a state of mind. The "total 
arabesque" or the "pure harmony" is there not only as evidence of 
itself but as creator of a state of mind, soul, or feeling. This state, far 
from being a reminder of anything we have known, is a fresh crea- 
tion ; and this creation is the effect of an analogy, not from nature's 
store but made by the poet. What it is an analogy for must be guessed 
by the reader as the poem creates his state of mind. Putting this 
excellently in his essay "The Symbolism of Poetry," Yeats, who knew 
of Mallarme at second hand through Arthur Symons, says that a 
poem evokes an emotion "which cannot be evoked by any other 
arrangement of colours and sounds and forms." All such arrange- 
ments, he continues, "evoke indefinable and yet precise emotions," 
and when the elements of a poem are "in a musical relation" to one 


another, they become one form and "evoke an emotion that is made 
out of their distinct evocations and yet is one emotion." 

Like many of Baudelaire's followers, Mallarme had spiritual in- 
clinations and interests. In one of his letters, he says that he lives 
habitually Tri Eternity, but, he continues, it jsjm^ Eternity that he 
carries around within himself. This portable Eternity, hardly to be 
distinguished from that which is embodied in a work of art, is not 
the Oversoul of common transcendentalists, but private, like his 
poems. As a follower of Baudelaire the artist, Mallarme is on firmer 
but no less private ground. Accepting Poe's idea of pure art without 
metaphysical or ethical significance, he held the poem to be im- 
personal, objective, and uncommunicative. It may correspond, to be 
sure, in some way to his "interior climate" and create something 
comparable in a reader, if any, but the charm of his self-subsistent 
world is "indecisiveness" of meaning. What he says in a letter about 
"Ses purs ongles tres haut dediant leur onyx," one of his best and 
most enigmatic sonnets, is relevant: "the sense, if there is one, is 
evoked by an internal mirage of the words themselves." Save that it 
is a universe which may suggest our own, he prefers not to attempt 
to fix its meaning since a poem like this celebration of sumptuous 
emptiness and splendid absence is an enchanting compound of the 
rich and the vague in which, he says, one cannot put a brutal finger 
on anything. 

Discouraged critics, C. M. Bowra (in The Heritage of Symbolism) 
among them, have complained that such poems are too remote from 
life and society to have moral value or human interest. The trouble 
with the French variety of symbolism, they say, is the musical auton- 
omy that Mallarme prized. From those with moral or sociological 
concerns this objection is understandable, but in making worlds with 
indefinite suggestion, Mallarme and his followers were doing no 


more than artists have always done, though more conspicuously per- 
haps and in some ways better than some. 

Before we proceed with the nature of these romantic worlds, it 
is fitting to recall the way in which symbols as constructs were pre- 
served through the age of reason and handed to our time by the 
Hermetic tradition. Hermes Trismegistus is the Egyptian god Thoth, 
somewhat Hellenized. Associated at first with the moon and the ibis, 
dog-headed Thoth became secretary to Osiris, in which capacity he 
invented speech and writing, not to mention the signs of the zodiac 
and alchemy. Since magic depends upon words, he became magus- 
in-chief and, under Greek auspices, the Logos or creator of things. 
This god of words and original secretary was destined to become the 
patron of Renaissance writers. Reappearing in the romantic period, 
but separated now from the idea of nature it had affirmed, Hermetism 
once more gave jnen of letters method. Emerson, Baudelaire^ Mal- 
larme, Yeats, and Joyce himself are among these denatured Her- 

The works of Hermes, known as the Corpus Hermeticum or the 
Pimander, though basically Platonic, are confused by additions from 
Zoroaster, the great magus. Peculiar in no way, as Festugiere, the 
principal authority, affirms, Hermetism is one of many almost identi- 
cal doctrines that pleased those in Alexandria or at the Mareotic 
Lake who, tiring of Greek dialectic, preferred to lose themselves in 
a mystery. The revelation of Hermes, which dates from a century or 
two before Christ to a century or two after, may have survived the 
rival claims of the magi and the oracles because of Plato's ghost, 
but it is more likely to have survived because it has a convenient and 
suggestive name, which came to mean all the more useful wisdom of 
the past, whether astrological, alchemical, magical, or philosophical 
and whether strictly Hermetic or not. 


To Hermes-Thoth the cosmos was a unity of interdependent parts, 
connected by sympathies or antipathies and arranged in curious 
paradigm. The heart of it was the chain of being with which we 
are familiar, but what was to fascinate men of letters was the idea 
of correspondences or analogical connections. In the Asdepius, one 
of his dialogues, Hermes finds "a reciprocal relation" governing 
reality: "All things are connected one to another by mutual corre- 
spondences in a chain which extends from the lowest to the highest." 
It was not until Marsilio Ficino translated the Corpus in 1463 that 
the philosophy of Hermes became generally available. But whether 
or not their wisdom came directly from Hermes, alchemists and 
alchemical divines of the Renaissance, such as Agrippa and Boehme, 
were labeled Hermetic. Tabula Smaragdina (1541) or The Emerald 
Tablet, another work attributed to Hermes, expressed the essence 
of Hermetism with unforgettable neatness: "As above, so below," a 
phrase that for many in later times became all that need be known 
of Hermes and, indeed, all that was known. 

Although the Renaissance idea of nature, with its correspondences 
between macrocosm and microcosm and among all things, was not 
altogether Hermetic, it was so much like the idea of Hermes that 
not uncommonly his name, linked with that of Plato, was invoked 
to support it. Sir Thomas Browne, who saw man in a kind of spheri- 
cal vivarium as "that great and true Amphibium, whose nature is dis- 
posed to live not only like other creatures in divers elements, but in 
divided and distinguished worlds ... the one visible, the other in- 
visible," reveals authority for his vision a few pages away: "The 
severe Schools shall never laugh me out of the Philosophy of Hermes 
that this visible World is but a Picture of the invisible" nor out of 
understanding a mystery "without a rigid definition, in an easie and 
Platonick description." Meanwhile in some high lonely tower Mil- 


ton's thinker was watching out the Bear "with thrice great Hermes" 
and "the spirit of Plato" by his side. Whether Platonic or Hermetic 
or more general than either, the doctrine of correspondences provided 
a poetic century with method. 

As we have seen, however, this organically interconnected world 
in which Andrew Marvell's garden of analogies could flourish, gave 
way to another in which part was connected with part by a kind of 
engineering. Analogy seemed as indeed it is irrational; and Her- 
metic correspondence, both cosmic and metaphorical, went under- 
ground for a hundred years. To be sure the eighteenth century was 
not altogether rational, still less altogether mechanical. It produced 
Methodists, an edition of Boehme, and Emanuel Swedenborg. Not 
Methodists, but Boehme and Swedenborg, both Hermetics, preserved 
and helped bring back not the world of Hermes but his correspond- 
ences as literary method. The world of Hermes was dead, and no 
degree of nostalgia could bring it back. Although analogy became 
method again, it was no longer a picture of fact. The servant of a 
new reality, it became a way of discovering, uniting, and even creat- 
ing not a world perhaps but worlds. 

Blake, whose Tiger is half a metaphor the other half of which is 
left unstated, found hints of method in Paracelsus, Boehme, Sweden- 
borg, and, if we may draw conclusions from The Song of Los, in 
Pythagoras, Plato, and Trismegistus himself. It is not surprising, 
therefore, that Blake could "see a World in a grain of sand, and a 
Hqaysn in a wild flower," or that, announcing his "fourfold vision," 
he prayed "God us to keep from single vision, and Newton's sleep!" 
Coleridge was familiar with Boehme, and Emerson found authority 
in Swedenborg, the alchemists, and all the Platonists, both neo and 
original. Romantic poets were ready for the revelation from Hermes 
and his disciples that commenced about the middle of the nineteenth 


century and continued well into our own. This revelation came from 
the occult, which, having stored the doctrine of correspondences 
away during an alien period, gave it to poets waiting to receive it. 

In his essays, which are among the most important documents of 
our period, Baudelaire attributes his doctrine of correspondences to 
Swedenborg, who taught that "comparisons, metaphors, and epithets 
are drawn from the inexhaustible depths of universal analogy." That 
this archaic yet romantic notion has a source more authentic than 
Swedenborg is suggested by the address to the hypocritical reader 
with which Baudelaire introduces his poems. Here he refers to the 
Satanic enchantments of "Trismegiste . . . ce savant chimiste." It 
seems not unlikely from this that the images of swan, city, voyage, 
and the like, with which his poems abound, are Hermetic correspond- 
ences. In his hands, however, "as above, so below" increasingly be- 
came as here, so there or as in, so out. 

His poems appeared in 1857. Two years earlier Eliphas Levi, the 
most eminent magus of the nineteenth century, had published his 
Dogme de la Haute Magic, the work above all others that disclosed 
Hermes to poets. Enlightened by the "lamp of Trismegistus," he says, 
the magus can proceed up and down the scale of being to discover 
by "analogical correspondence between the sign and the thing sig- 
nified" the secrets of reality. "To pronounce a name is to create or 
evoke a being or a thought." It is by no means odd that poets, sub- 
stituting poet for magus or leaving it as it stood, adopted Levi's Her- 
metism as symbolic method and took evoke, their favorite word, from 

After reading Levi, Rimbaud called himself "voyant" or seer and 
re-created or maybe created visions in his Illuminations. These poems, 
composed of symbols, are symbols or correspondences for feeling and 
idea. It is not without Hermetic significance that the important part 


of his Season in Hell is called "Alchemy of the Word." Here, when 
he says of his poems, "I put down the inexpressible" and "I reserved 
the rights of translation," he is noting the nondiscursive nature of thfc 
symbol and the folly of explicators. 

Villiers de Tlsle Adam, a Rosicrucian, wrote Mallarme a letter 
warmly commending Lc Dogme de la Haute Magie. That he read 
it seems probable from references to "grimoires" in his poems. After 
attending a meeting of Rosicrucians, he wrote the essay on magic, 
in which, after discussing alchemy and black magic, he says: "There 
is a secret connection between poetry and the ancient methods of 
magic. To evoke the hidden object by allusive words, never direct," 
is the way of both arts. But by the time of Mallarme, the work of 
Levi had inspired many similar works. Societies of Rosicrucians, 
Cabalists, and Theosophists, flourishing in both France and England, 
enchanted many men of letters. The world of Hermes may have 
been dead in fact and forgotten by society, but to these poets, exiles 
from society and enemies of matter and machine, the world of 
Hermes was a symbol of their rebellion. That they desired this world 
is plain, but it is hard to determine the degree of their belief in it. 
There can be no doubt, however, about their belief in the theory 
of knowledge and the literary method belonging to a cosmic sys- 
tem less actual perhaps than convenient. Nor can we doubt that 
Hermes provided plans for replacing the incomplete world of science 
by complete aesthetic worlds. As organic as the Hermetic universe, 
the work of art need not hold a mirror to nature, but may replace it 
by something more like a world. It was no accident that Virginia 
Woolf called the work of art "a globed compacted thing." 

Yeats, who spent his days in occult pursuits, called himself a 
Hermetist. Madame Blavatsky, a second but more copious Levi, 
became his spiritual guide in the i88os; and he joined a Rosicrucian 


order, which in his Autobiography he calls the Hermetic Students. 
He edited the prophetic books of Blake and read not only Levi but 
all occult, Cabalistic, and Platonic literature he could lay his hands 
on, and there was a lot of it around. Like Mallarme, he wrote an 
essay on magic and the power of correspondences; like Valery, he 
wrote an essay on Swedenborg. His early poems, filled with corre- 
spondences, reflect these interests; but even in one of the "Supernatu- 
ral Songs," written late in life, he says: "things below are copies, the 
Great Smaragdine Tablet said." 

Yeats is the conspicuous Hermetist of our time, but several others 
belong in their degree to the tradition. Lawrence, for example, 
found the key to analogy in the works of Madame Blavatsky. Mann, 
another of those who applied the method of analogy to the novel, 
made Settembrini, the champion of liberal humanism in The Magic 
Mountain, commend Hermes. Defending the word, he speaks of 
"the Egyptian god Thoth, identical with the thrice renowned Hermes 
of Hellenism; who was honoured as the inventor of writing, pro- 
tector of libraries, and inciter to all literary efforts." Naphta, his ab- 
solutist opponent, seeing only the occult side of Hermes-Thoth, con- 
demns him as an ape and moon god "of whom late antiquity made 
an arch-enchanter, and the cabalistic Middle Ages the Father of 
hermetic alchemy." In view of the functional character of Mann's 
materials, this debate on Hermes seems there in part as clue to literary 

Even Joyce, whose humor would seem to forbid such interests, was 
on a familiar footing with Hermes. This is not as surprising as it 
seems, for Joyce used analogy even more consistently than most 
writers of a time when important literature is symbolist; and if it 
is true that Hermes, whether directly or indirectly, is partly responsi- 
ble for symbolic method during the romantic period, a connection 


between Joyce and Hermes becomes the most natural thing in the 
world. Joyce, who knew his Baudelaire, Rimbaud, and Mallarme, 
regarded Yeats with not-always-respectful awe. We know that young 
Joyce attended Theosophical meetings in Dawson Street or at the 
home of A.E., and that around the turn of the century, although 
poor, he bought several Theosophical books, in one of which Hermes 
is conspicuous. 

References to Madame Blavatsky and the Theosophists in Ulysses 
are invariably cynical; for by the time Joyce composed that book 
he had long abandoned the occult as a possible way to divinity. It 
is notable, however, that in two of these references the Theosophists 
are called Hermetic, as if under that label their teaching could be 
subsumed as indeed it can. In the Aeolus chapter of Ulysses, Stephen 
Dedalus, a projection of the young Joyce of 1904, mentions "that 
hermetic crowd, the opal hush poets: A.E. the master mystic? That 
Blavatsky woman started it." Thinking of her Isis Unveiled in the 
library scene, Stephen remarks: "The faithful hermetists await the 
light." That Joyce, like other amateurs in this attenuated Hermetism, 
also investigated some of Madame Blavatsky's sources is made plain 
-by this passage from A Portrait of the Artist: "A phrase of Cornelius 
Agrippa flew through his mind . . . shapeless thoughts from Swe- 
denborg on the correspondence of birds with things of the intel- 
lect. . . ." At the commencement of this rumination Stephen is 
thinking of augury and at the end of symbol. At the beginning of 
the third chapter of Ulysses, the Proteus or Egyptian episode, the 
phrase "Signatures of all things" implies Stephen's acquaintance with 
Jacob Boehme. 

However ironic about Theosophy, Stephen is plainly impressed if 
not with the metaphysics of Hermes at least with his applicability 
to literature. Since there is nothing in Joyce that is casual, nothing 


that serves no purpose in the total structure, and since a principal 
theme of his books is his development as an artist, it is likely that 
the following passages on Hermes-Thoth as the god of writers, 
put into the mind of a hero who is an incipient artist and surrogate 
of Joyce himself, have the profoundest significance as a clue to the 
nature of Stephen's future method, when, as Joyce, he composed A 
Portrait of the Artist and Ulysses. As Stephen in the Portrait, stand- 
ing suitably on the steps of the National Library, thinks of Agrippa, 
Swedenborg, and symbols, he thinks "of Thoth, the god of writers, 
writing with a reed upon a tablet and bearing on his narrow ibis 
head the cusped moon/' In this description, which shows consider- 
able acquaintance with the person and habits of Hermes, bird and 
moon appear to function as traditional signs of the imagination, in 
the service of which Stephen has declared himself a priest; the reed 
seems to indicate music and poetry; and the tablet, of course, is green. 
Inside the same library, in Ulysses, Stephen ruminates: "Coffined 
thoughts around me, in mummycases, embalmed in spice of words. 
Thoth, god of libraries, a birdgod, moony-crowned. And I heard the 
voice of that Egyptian highpriest. In painted chambers loaded with 
tileboof^s." That Stephen, going beyond the emerald tilebook, had 
some knowledge of the Corpus Hermeticum is suggested by that 
passage from the Circe episode in which A.E., the Theosophist, ap- 
pearing in the guise of Mananaan Maclir, speaks of the "Occult pi- 
mander of Hermes Trismegistos." 

For Yeats and a few other transcendentalists who believed or 
wanted to believe in a macrocosm they did not know but which 
correspondences might reveal, such analogies are sometimes vertical, 
as Hermes recommended. For writers like Joyce, who had lost belief 
in the upper half of Hermetic reality, except in so far as it could be 
equated with the poetic imagination or the unconscious, correspond- 


ences were generally horizontal, and The Emerald Tablet was modi- 
fied, as we have noticed, to mean as here, so there or as in, so out. 
The method of Hermes, separated from his world and adapted to 
what was left, still seemed a way of exploring, unifying, or revealing 
the relationship of part with part. Joyce used correspondences to 
show the connection between man and man, man and society, man 
and nature, and, as if to prove himself a romantic, between past and 
present. The sublunary reality so revealed seemed, as a result per- 
haps of nineteenth-century biology, an organic and changing whole, 
To provide an image of this world, to present the feeling of it, and, 
if we may change the metaphor, to note the harmony of parts the 
modified correspondence seemed eminently suitable. Since, more- 
over, the correspondence puts things together, it might connect the 
individual more closely with what surrounds him by making him 
aware of it and serve, however indirectly, a moral purpose such as 
the commendation of charity. But Hermes was most useful to Joyce 
in showing him not how to represent a world but how to create 

The circle, that image of the closed and unified world of the past, 
is one of Joyce's principal symbols. Not a gyre, as in the system of 
Yeats, but a "Wheel of Fortune," as it is called in Finnegans Wa\e t 
Joyce's Viconian circle is an image of time and destiny, which im- 
partially distributes "the seim anew." But what appeared to men of 
the Renaissance an image of perfection now seems the image of 
temporal recurrence, to be made the best of with gaiety and sympathy. 
That the image of the compass, once associated with the perfect 
circle, should recur in Finnegans Wa\e is not surprising. "The Goat 
and Compasses" is not only the name of a pub but an image of the 
family that creates the circle in which it revolves. The Goat is both 
God and H. C. Earwicker; the compasses he wields are his twin sons, 


who describe themselves in the manner of Donne as "a daintical pair 
of accomplasses." "A daintical" means identical, and the twins are 
confused with the two dainty lasses whom the Goat also uses to 
circumscribe his destiny. 

Analogy is not only the method of Ulysses but its substance. Out 
of a maze of correspondences Joyce created a world, complete and 
self-subsistent, but not without reference to external things nor with- 
out power to organize our feeling about them. Unable or unwilling 
to revive the world that died in the seventeenth century, he made 
another world in its image. That this world is an aesthetic rather 
than a cosmic structure is what we might expect; for poets today, 
seeking unity, find it in art alone. 

But they have this advantage over their predecessors who inherited 
a world already made. As creators, they can enjoy the sensations of 
God and like Him they can retire into what they have made or sit 
upon it. Stephen concludes his discussion of art in the Portrait with 
these words: "The mystery of esthetic like that of material creation 
is accomplished. The artist, like the God of creation, remains within 
or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out 
of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails." His aesthetic substi- 
tute for the actual world, Stephen has just observed, must have 
wholeness, harmony, and radiance. In other words this world, un- 
like our own, must resemble the complete, harmonious, and signifi- 
cant world of Hermes, whom Stephen discusses a few pages later. 
It is not unlikely that Hermes, the "god of writers" and the creative 
Logos, gave Joyce not only hints of method but lessons in composi- 
tion which proved useful when, as he expresses it in Finnegans 
Wa\e he "made mundballs of the ephemerids." 

The Hermetic revival, which resulted in these private or semi- 
private worlds, was accompanied by a revival of metaphysical 


metaphor. Once better adapted than symbol to the affairs of above 
and below, this limited analogy of the Renaissance pleased romantic 
symbolists, who found in it another way of connecting parts of what- 
ever worlds they had or wanted. Whether as element of a symbolic 
structure or as a supplement, metaphor proved congenial and not 
without symbolic possibilities. It was particularly convenient for 
transcendentalists trying to match an above to their below. In his 
essay on nature, for example, Emerson quotes George Herbert's 
"Man," a poem of macrocosm and micrososm: " 'He is in little all 
the sphere/ " Nothing could be more Hermetic or more meta- 

The characteristic of metaphysical metaphor is apparent in- 
congruity in the service of harmony. Hopkins was no Hermetic but 
he too searched Herbert and possibly others of the seventeenth cen- 
tury for incongruous comparisons. "The Blessed Virgin Compared 
to the Air We Breathe," an extended comparison of the common- 
place with the celestial, is witty in the sense that Donne understood 
the word; for wit in his sense, as we have noticed, is the analogical 
faculty, a means of exploring and affirming both realities, not of 
decorating this one. Such logical elaboration of the conceit or appar- 
ently incongruous comparison as Hopkins uses, while not necessary 
for metaphysical poetry, is typical of it. The earthly term of Hopkins's 
analogy, though limited by equation and less indefinite for that 
reason than the romantic symbol, is not without symbolic effect; 
for it embodies vision, and the two terms, working together, create 
between them another vision, as any two elements of a poem may do. 

Browning read the metaphysicals ; Emily Dickinson must have 
read them; and Arthur Symons in the 18905 imitated Donne as well 
as Baudelaire; but the full revival of Donne followed Gosse's biogra- 
phy of the poet in 1899 and Grierson's edition in 1912. T. S. Eliot, 


who made the revival known to the common reader, had learned 
of Donne at Harvard and of the symbolists from Arthur Symons. 
Finding both symbolists and metaphysicals agreeable, he proceeded 
to confuse them with one another; for although devoted to tradi- 
tion, he was never strong in history. It is true that both schools have 
analogy in common, but symbolist analogies differ in kind and func- 
tion from those of Donne. The metaphysical analogy, logically de- 
veloped and comparatively definite, serves an orderly, public uni- 
verse; the symbolist analogy, remote from logic, serves worlds that 
are either indefinite or private. The appearance of incongruity in 
metaphysical verse that attracted young Eliot serves to discover the 
harmony of all things; the metaphorical incongruities of Jylallarjne 
establish aesthetic harmony alone. 

Twentieth-century symbolists who were still transcendentally in- 
clined used the conceit at times to commend the connection of above 
with below. Yeats, who was imitating Donne's conversational style 
around 1905, says in his Autobiography that Donne "could be as 
metaphysical as he pleased" without seeming inhuman and hysteri- 
cal as Shelley often does, "because he could be as physical as he 
pleased." In "Supernatural Songs," which Yeats called poems "of a 
passionate metaphysical sort," the "sexual spasm" of Godhead upon 
Godhead is a conceit combining the regions though somewhat less 
spectacularly than Eliot's lyric of the "wounded surgeon," which, 
logically constructed upon Sir Thomas Browne's analogy of world 
as hospital, is the most elaborate imitation of Donne in recent 
times. These metaphorical poems by Yeats and Eliot are functional 
parts of symbolic structures, which, like their originals, are dedi- 
cated to a desire for the harmony of above and below, Irish and 
Indian on the one hand and decently Anglican on the other. 

Sometimes, however, twentieth-century symbolists called upon the 


conceit for those possibilities of disharmony, inherent in the form, 
that Donne exploited in his more doubtful moments. Eliot's patient 
etherized upon his table, the opening of "Prufrock," is typical of 
analogical custom before and after the first World War. Wallace 
Stevens's conceit of the caliper is hardly more agreeable. 

The difference between a seventeenth-century conceit and a con- 
temporary one is shown by my promised comparison of Donne's 
famous compasses with that caliper. The soft souls of Donne's lovers 
go away and come together like the legs of stiff twin compasses: 

Thy soule the fixt foot, makes no show 
To move, but doth, if the other doe. 

It was wit's business to find the similar in the dissimilar; and the 
seeming incompatibility of mechanical drawing and love at a time 
when each thing was involved with all other things was nothing. 
Stevens in "Last Looks at the Lilacs" calls one of his lovers a caliper, 
a device that by usage, character, and shape suggests intellect, meas- 
urement, science, and industry. That mechanical lover, the man of 
course, tells his companion, a "divine ingenue" among the flowers, 
that bloom is the bloom of "vegetal," a lilac preparation once ad- 
vertised in subways by Ed. Pinaud. In this case, the caliper, far from 
uniting those lovers, marks their difference; for today calipers be- 
long to one region, girls and love to another, and what once seemed 
incompatible is incompatible indeed. That the girl can confuse a 
caliper with "gold Don John" is strange but no stranger than girls 
choosing professors or engineers and by Kantian projection enjoying 
them. Donne's conceit is a hymn to the conjunction of parts whereas 
Stevens's is an ironic acknowledgment of their separation. 

The difference between Donne's flea and Kafka's insect maybe a 
cockroach is no less exemplary. Having sucked him, then her, 


Donne's flea their "mariage bed, and mariage temple is." Whatever 
their seeming inconsistency, fleas and marriage beds are part of a 
system; but, since flea is lower than lover in the hierarchy of being 
and distinguished among creatures by toughness, agility, and rapac- 
ity, Donne's pleasing conceit, the favorite of a conceited century, may 
imply an attitude toward marriage whether dim, ironic, cynical, 
wise, comic, or neutral it is difficult to say. Suggesting almost as 
much as it says, the metaphor approaches symbol; but, however in- 
definite in tone, attitude, and feeling, this comparison seems limited 
when compared with the central analogy of Kafka's Metamorphosis. 
Poor Gregor Samsa, waking in the morning, finds himself trans- 
formed in bed to an enormous insect. Less assigned than unassigned, 
this symbol implies the attitude of Samsa's family toward Samsa, 
his opinion of himself, and, in addition to these, ideas and feelings 
about our society, our time, and the miserable condition of humanity. 
Donne's flea and Kafka's significantly nameless bug are well adapted 
to their environments and their times. The difference between that 
metaphor and this symbol is less of kind or analogical habit than of 

Kafka's disgusting bug is a fair sample of the twentieth-century 
symbol. His hero's quandary is like something out of nightmare 
by Freud; for even the most transcendental symbols of our time, 
differing in this respect from earlier romantic images, owe part at 
least of content and quality to the revelations of that Viennese, who 
announced our century and marked its difference from others with 
his Interpretation of Dreams. Revealing the unconscious, he provided 
symbolists with new territory for romantic exploration and a new 
store of images from the depths of night. Not that exploring poets 
had avoided this territory and these images, but, making poets aware 
of what some had been doing, he confirmed a growing interest and 


established a new dimension. The vertical, by his aid, became more 
nearly horizontal. As above, so below, though surviving here and 
there, commonly yielded to as in, so out. Reason, at last dethroned, 
was replaced, for men of sensibility at least, by imagination and the 
unconscious, which, although within man, came to occupy the place 
that he used to think above him in the upper half of the chain. De- 
signed for exploring and for handling more than reason can manage 
or discourse define, the symbol, improved by Freud's brilliant mind 
and given a more suitable climate, flourished as never before. 

Although to the best of my knowledgdsreud never quite defined 
symbol, he calls it a product of the "unconscious imagination. ' The 
dream-work of his^censor, designed to conceal rather than to reveal, 
makes use of images.JWondering for a time whether these recurrent 
images, which he calls symbols, have fixed and permanent meanings 
like the signs of shorthand, Freud finally concluded that although 
they are significant, what they carry at each appearance is determined 
by context and by the associations of the dreamer. To interpret such 
symbols, then, requires not only a knowledge of typical signs but 
analysis of changing circumstance or context. Despite such qualifica- 
tion and such warnings against arbitrary and facile interpretation, 
Freud tended to regard his images as nearer sign than symbol. He 
uses the words signify and represent and seems convinced that he 
can "translate" his symbols as an Egyptologist his hieroglyphics. 
Freud was a medical man, of course, and that his interest was symbol 
as symptom is not surprising; but for his readers what he revealed of 
the symbol-making power of the unconscious imagination was not 
limited by his scientific interests. Ignoring his diagnoses, poets and 
Caj^l Jung made his revelation more general and more romantic. 

vFo Freud symbols were not only unconscious but primitive, like 
images of folklore and myth: "The symbolic relationship seems to 


be a residue and reminder of a former identity./ When Jung broke 
with Freud, he took this idea of symbol along with him; and his 
archetypes, which lie behind all symbols, are vestiges oilman's experi- 
ence. Dismissing Freud's symbols as signs, romantic Mung saw the 
symbol as the best possible way to express something for which no 
verbal concept exists\ Although its rational component can be made 
comprehensible, he said, the symbol's irrational component, never 
to be fully explained or interpreted, can be grasped by feelings alone. 
Ambiguous, filled with contradictions and intimations, Jung's "true" 
symbols are inexhaustible. But by these devices, at once expressive 
and impressive, the unconscious and the conscious, together with all 
opposites, are fused and reconciled. That his mediating symbols are 
not unlike those once used by alchemists confirms their place in the 
Hermetic tradition and explains their appeal to romantic men of 

Freud and Jung were anticipated and abetted by Frazcr and other 
anthropologists, who, revealing images from man's past more fully, 
added still another dimension to symbolic relationship. As above, so 
below and as in, so out were joined and supplemented by as then, so 
now, a return to vertical correspondence perhaps, but vertical in 
time. Frazer's revelations about Vergil's golden bough were used by 
Yeats, who had already consulted the works of the solar mythologists. 
Even Eliot's symbolic wasteland comes from one of Frazer's disciples, 
and the eating of god in Finnegans Wake recalls Frazer no less than 
the practice of Christians, whether literal, symbolic, or betwixt and 

But what of autonomy ? If art in our time is autonomous, as many 
critics affirm, we must ask how the symbol can derive substance, 
reference, and quality from disciplines which connect it with man's 
unconscious and his past. But Mallarme, the most nearly autonomous 


of poets, never realized his ideal; for literature, after all, is not music 
nor can it be as free from reference as that art, whatever our desire. 
Words, the elements of literature, have reference, and a literary work 
is but the semblance of a world. The aesthetic worlds created by 
Mallarme and Joyce arc forms which, suggesting man's condition, 
are symbols of living. That is part of their value. "To construct some- 
thing on which to rejoice," as Eliot puts it in Ash Wednesday, is to 
construct something at once aesthetically autonomous and, by refer- 
ence or suggestion, moral and human. Once at a party in Paris when 
someone proposed a toast to immorality, Joyce put his glass of white 
wine down and said : "I will not drink to that." 


Supreme Fictions 


S TIGHT and reflexive as poems, symbolist novels insinuate 
their meanings by a concert of elements. Images, allusions, hints, 
changes of rhythm, and tone in short, all the devices of suggestion 
support and sometimes carry the principal burden. "Whatever is felt 
upon the page without being specifically named there that, one 
might say," says Willa Gather, "is created." Presenting themselves, 
such creations offer a vision of reality. 

Since symbolism is the necessary condition of literature, all novels 
are symbolic. By the poetic or symbolist novel I mean a kind distin- 
guished by the deliberate or unconscious exploitation of symbolic 
possibilities. Authors of such novels, which have abounded in the 
later romantic period, try to present something beyond narrative and 
discourse or even to do without them. Almost a hundred years ago, 
in his essay on Theophile Gautier, Baudelaire commended "la nou- 
velle poetique," which he imagined rather than observed. Devoted less 
to description of external realities than to "vision," this kind of novel 
or story must borrow from poems not meter and rhyme, he said, but 

"concise energy" of language. Melville and Flaubert had written 
novels of this sort; Lewis Carroll and Dostoyevsky were about to 
make their contributions; and many uncommonly thought of as 
symbolists were making use of incidental images. A gradual de- 
velopment culminating in the twentieth century realized Baudelaire's 
ideal, which Henry James may have had in mind when he said: 
"Don't state render." 

The twentieth-century novel, having taken lessons from poetry, 
all but supplanted it. To be sure, poets continued to appear Yeats 
and Valery, Rilke, Stevens, and Thomas but few read their works. 
Eliot alone, rivaling the easier triumph of Tennyson, almost made 
poetry popular again; and even he, in an interview published in 
1953, confessed himself disappointed with those poets who twenty 
years earlier had seemed to promise so much. "I sometimes lean to- 
ward the view," he said, 'fchat creative advance in our age is in prose 
fiction." What he had in mind, as he made this announcement in 
that office overlooking Russell Square and adorned with pictures of 
Valery, Yeats, and Virginia Woolf, was the work of Henry Green. 
But Blake's "Fair Nine, forsaking Poetry" preside over that of other 
novelists as well. 

Whatever the cause, interest in verse declined; but readers of prose 
who could ignore the general indifference to letters in our society 
seem to have retained some capacity for poetic suggestion. Serving 
that vestigial interest and combining the virtues of two forms, 
novelists, whose narratives and characters were still inviting, took 
over the function once exercised by poets and did what they had done 
for the fathers of this meager audience. The better novel became 
a kind of poem. In "Notes on an Elizabethan Play," an essay in 
The Common Reader, Virginia Woolf complains that the novel is 
not entirely poetic yet: "The play is poetry, we say, and the novel 


prose," but, taking example from the Elizabethan play, the novel 
may avoid descriptive particulars and "reveal by illumination." We 
await impatiently, she continues, "what may yet be devised to liberate 
us of the enormous burden of the unexpressed." She herself was busy 
devising that; and as she worked, Forster, Lawrence, Joyce, Eliot, 
and Conrad seemed encouraging signs though Conrad was little 
better than a foreigner and Eliot expressed himself in verse, however 
free. Like Dostoyevsky and Flaubert, these writers made her think 
not only of what is present on the page but of vaster, suggested things. 
The greater part of Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown, the pamphlet where 
these reflections appear, is devoted, however, to Arnold Bennett, the 
bad reigning novelist, who, avoiding imagination, accumulated facts. 

The Old Wives' Tale may be one of the best novels of the natu- 
ralistic tradition, in which details and actions, limited and thoroughly 
understood, are supposed to imply littlefbr nothing beyond time, 
space, cause and effect, and the other categories of science ; but Ben- 
nett's novel is far from destitute of suggestion as the great letter 
from Constance to Sophia proves. We must agree that Virginia Woolf 
was a little unfair to Bennett and the tradition in which he worked; 
for most naturalists, however external and partial to causes, made 
use of symbols. Zola's manifestoes are so much closer to his intention 
than to his practice that if we consult them alone, we are deceived. 
In L'Assommoir, the great machine is as symbolic as Mrs. Woolf s 
lighthouse, and so is the coal mine of Germinal. Seemingly there for 
their own sake or to make a scientific or sociological point, the 
concrete details of Zola's novels serve other purposes as well. But im- 
patient with such signs of grace, symbolists reacted violently against 
naturalism; and the poetic novel, which they devised, owes part of 
its character to this reaction. 

There have been enough studies of symbolist poets and of symbol- 


1st poetry to make another unnecessary, but although the symbolist 
novel is one of the outstanding forms of our time, it has received 
comparatively little notice. It is true that Melville, Kafka, Faulkner, 
Woolf, Joyce, and Mann have been applauded in book, essay, and 
lecture, in most of which, however, symbols, if not ignored, have 
been treated in passing. Recent French critics such as Dandieu and 
Fiser have found Proust a symbolist; E. M. Forster and E. K. Brown 
have inspected aspects of the symbolist novel ; but I have found little 
acknowledgment of the form nor am I aware of any general treat- 

I When we read a symbolist novel for the first time or even the 
second or third, we may find it slight or even naturalistic. When 
we read it again, however, we find that the concrete particulars and 
arrangement which gave us that impression are there to carry mean- 
ings beyond immediate significance; and as we proceed, a greater 
meaning gradually emerges. Each rereading adds fresh discoveries, 
changing our idea of the whole until we despair of reaching the end 
of that suggestive complexity! Reading in groups where each mem- 
ber, stimulated by the others and rebuking their occasional irrelevance 
or excess, contributes his understanding of the text seems the best 
approach. Still, of such works the last word will not be spoken, for 
since the effect of any symbolic structure is indefinite, works of this 
kind cannot yield entirely to analysis. If , however, as some maintain, 
literature is increasingly private, reading it in company seems a 
good way to make it almost public again and all but sociable. 

To convey the experience of reading such works, we commonly 
have recourse to Ihe metaphor of levels. The work seems many- 
leveled like a cake, which, if eaten from the top down, reveals layer 
after layer of agreeable substance. Maybe, however, the metaphor 
owes no more to cake than to Dante's seven-story mountain or else 


to Freud's dream, in which the manifest content seems to occupy a 
level above the latent. Whether it owes its origin to cake, Freud, or 
Purgatory, the overworked metaphor is inexact; for everything a 
book contains is present or implicit on the printed page. There are 
no levels. The surface may be so difficult that we do not find at once 
what is there, but surface is all. Both Saint Thomas and Dante, con- 
sidering the senses of a text, placed emphasis upon the literal, which 
must contain the others. Yet level, suggesting at least a third dimen- 
sion, may do for our experience of deeper and deeper penetration if 
not for the work itself. As for that, we may change the metaphor for 
that of the symphony, which implies time, or for those of labyrinth 
or world, which imply surface, organization, and development. 
Whatever the trope, it means that, entering the work by degrees, we 
discover parts at first and, if we can, the whole; or else that, having 
felt the whole, we discover parts. 

Though none of these tropes fits the great Victorian novels, some 
of them, displaying symbols, distantly anticipate the poetic novel of 
our day. The "London particular" that fills the first chapters of 
Blea\ House is a case in point. Fixing the atmosphere through which 
the narrative gropes, this fog suggests Jarndyce and Jarndyce, a trial 
as incomprehensible and monstrous as something from Kafka; and 
when reappearing as "a dense particular" in the third chapter of 
Finnegans WaJ{c f it suggests by allusfon the kind of evidence, gossip, 
and slander that plagues H. C. Earwicker's trial. Mr. Krook's ware- 
house of rags, paper, bottles, and bones in Elea\ House not only 
supports and expands the image of fog but, like the junk shops of 
Dickens's other novels, the heaps of "dust" that fill the back yard in 
Our Mutual Friend, and the dark, cobwebby room in Great Expecta- 
tions, embodies feeling and thought about middle-class society. In 
Richard Feverel the burning rick presents the theme while connect- 


ing its parts, and although E. M. Forster dismisses Clara's double- 
blossomed cherry tree in The Egoist as a sign, that tree, the enclosed 
estate, and all those mirrors break through their limitation. The 
desolate moor and the lonely man that open The Return of the Na- 
tive are an epitome of the book. Not only setting, the moor, like 
the fungoid forest of The Woodlanders, becomes symbol, ambiva- 
lently presenting nature in both her aspects: vestigial, Wordsworth- 
ian, and benign on the one hand, casual, Darwinian, and frighten- 
ing on the other. Although the scenery and action of Alice in Won- 
derland may be unconscious and almost embarrassingly Freudian, 
their organization, which William Empson has explored, places the 
book farther along the road to recent symbolism than most of its 
less clerical contemporaries. 

.In Madame Bovary the agricultural fair, which consists of alter- 
nate, incompatible layers, may bring the structure of cake to mind, 
but it struck Flaubert as "symphonic." In his symphony, he observed 
in a letter, "one hears at once the bellowing of bulls, the sighs of 
love, and the phrases of administrators." Dissonant unions of inner 
and outer, past and present, strange combinations of manure and 
love, of oratory, both intimate and public, and a kind of resolution 
in damp fireworks at the end reveal a reality he called "bottomless, 
infinite, multiple." Of such disharmonies, he proudly said, he had 
made a harmonious, serene, and incomprehensible form for pre- 
senting vision. "Exactitude et mystere!" he exclaimed; and he was 
pleased when Baudelaire found Madame Bovary "suggestive." Un- 
der its simple appearance, said Flaubert, changing his metaphor, his 
novel is a complicated machine. To read such books, he added, chang- 
ing the metaphor again, you need "initiation." 

Ignorant of what Melville had done a few years earlier, Flaubert 
reinvented the symbolist novel Some have confused him with real- 


ists and sociologists, but he detested realism and loathed photography 
with Baudelairian passion. The objects of which his novel is com- 
posed serve the purposes of poetry, which, he said in another letter, 
"is a way of perceiving external things, a special organ which sifts 
matter and which, without changing it, transfigures it." He sought 
a style "as rhythmic as verse, as precise as the language of science, 
and with the undulations and modulations of a violoncello," yet the 
commonplace was the matter of this poetry; for, as Baudelaire ob- 
served, "In certain almost supernatural states of soul, the depth of 
life is revealed in ordinary everyday happenings. Ordinary life then 
becomes the Symbol." The facts and trivial dialogue of Madame 
Eovary are not there to celebrate scientific observation but to suggest 
what they embody. Discarding analysis and commentary, the tradi- 
tional resources of novelists, Flaubert made concrete, evocative, or 
what he called "intrinsic," details assume the load. By relationship 
with one another and with the theme they create the "form" and 
"all must speak in forms" through which alone reality is apparent. 
[Carried away by the desire for pure art that was to tease Mallarme, 
Flaubert dreamt of a novel about nothing, without exterior connec- 
tions, held together by the internal force of style, expressive by shape 
alone. Madame Eovary is not that novel, but, a step in the direction, 
it helped make the novel a creative relationship of images, rhythms, 
and tones. 

Madame Bovary's arrival in her husband's house is typical of Flau- 
bert's method. Although the details of that establishment are given 
at some length, her impression receives neither analysis nor com- 
ment; but at the end of the suggestive catalogue she acts: going up- 
stairs, she notes her predecessor's bridal bouquet and stares from a 
window between two pots of geraniums. In this act all her trouble and 
her future are revealed; and equally revealing, the veil through which, 


when on horseback, she contemplates bourgeois reality conceals it 
with blue, romantic haze. The ball at the chateau, the cigar case (at 
once remote, male, and aristocratic), the gradual disintegration of 
the plaster cure in the garden, and countless other images work to- 
gether to enrich and deepen the narrative. 

Such details, however functional, are less impressive than the great 
images of lathe, carriage, and beggar. Emma's emotional crises are 
commonly attended by the sound of Binet's lathe, which, going 
round and round, turns out useless objects. It attracts Emma as it 
does us because, working below the threshold of awareness, its 
motion, hum, and pointlessness are somehow analogous to hers. This 
desolating analogy is supplemented later in the book by the closed 
carriage in which Leon and Emma tour Rouen. Round and round 
they go, almost like a napkin ring on Binet's lathe, blinded by 
blinds, in no directions, making love and passing pink mounds left 
in gutters by makers of jam. The blind beggar who accosts Emma 
through the window of another conveyance is a symbol that reveals 
another aspect of her character and anticipates her goal. Singing of 
love, this miserable creature, who appears at the beginning of her 
affair with Leon and at its end, is love's victim. It is suitable that 
her last words concern this analogous embodiment of love and death. 
The performance of Lucia that she attends in Rouen not only ad- 
vances the plot but projects for her and reader alike her romantic 
illusion. Like the rest, these interconnected images, also serve what 
Flaubert called "the precision of the grouping, the perfection of 
the parts . . . the total harmony." It is not for nothing that Mal- 
larme, who hated realism, praised Flaubert for composing a kind of 

jThe symbolists of the early twentieth century, Conrad, for example, 
and Joyce, owe a considerable debt to Madame Bovary. Referring to 


it several times in his letters, Conrad praises "the sheer sincerity of 
its method" and the marvelous "rendering of concrete things." What 
Flaubert did for him, he continues, was open his eyes and arouse his 
emulation. He did not read Madame Bovary until he had finished 
Almayer's Folly, but it was between that work and Lord Jim that 
Conrad developed his imagistic method. As for Joyce, who wrote the 
stories of Dubliners shortly after the appearance of Conrad's great 
symbolist work, he knew pages of Flaubert by heart. What he 
learned from him is expressed in Stephen Hero where Stephen, after 
rejecting naturalistic "portrayal of externals," says that the artist must 
free "the image from its mesh of defining circumstances . . . and re- 
embody it in artistic circumstances chosen as the most exact for it 
in its new office." In that office the details of observed reality, so 
precise that they have caused critics to confuse Joyce with the natu- 
ralists, are "transmuted," as he puts it in A Portrait of the Artist, into 
radiant images. Not only Flaubert, to be sure, but symbolist poets 
and the Hermetic tradition led Joyce to his method ; and it is fitting 
that Chamber Music, the sketch from which his poetic novel devel- 
oped, is verse; but that Flaubert remained central in Joyce's mind is 
suggested not only by his concern with the observed image but with 
the mot juste and expressive rhythm. Many passages in Flaubert's 
letters, with which Joyce must have been familiar, anticipate and 
maybe helped to shape the aesthetics of Stephen Dedalus. Speaking 
as Stephen was to speak of the need for impersonality,|Flaubert says 
in one of his letters that the artist must "be in his work like God in 
creation, present everywhere and visible nowhere. Since art is a 
second world, its creator must act by analogous methods.".! 

A Portrait of the Artist, at once the residence and the creation of 
Stephen's nail-paring God, differs from most other novels of adoles- 
cence in detachment and method. At first glance, however, Joyce's 


improvement upon the Bildungsroman seems simple enough be- 
cause the main burden is carried, as in ordinary novels of this sort, 
by character and action. We have plainly before us the story of a 
sensitive, gifted boy who is disappointed in his hope of communion 
with parents, country, and religion. Refusing the actual world at 
last, as in the role of the Count of Monte Cristo he refuses the 
muscatel grapes that Mercedes proffers, he constructs a better world to 
replace it. "If you have form'd a circle to go into," says cynical Blake, 
"go into it yourself, and see how you would do." 

The theme of A Portrait of the Artist is normal enough. Joyce 
differs from most of his predecessors, as Flaubert from his, in greater 
dependence upon image, rhythm, juxtaposition, and tone to supple- 
ment the narrative and in giving attitudes and feelings body to support 
them. What Joyce in his notes for Exiles called "attendant images" 
could be omitted without destroying the outline of his book, but some 
of its quality and depth must be attributed to this accompaniment. At 
times, moreover, forgetting their capacity of attendants, images and 
other devices become essential and assume the principal burden as 
they were to do in Ulysses. Yielding place to other things at such 
times, the narrative grows "obscure," a word which means that 
narrative has given way to suggestion and discourse to nondiscursive 
elements having more effect on feeling than on mind. While still 
attendant, however, images may be too familiar or obvious to attract 
notice. Even Tolstoi used them. 

When Vronsky in Anna Karenina rides his mare to death at the 
races, breaking her back by his awkwardness or zeal, his action, un- 
necessary to the plot and far from realistic, embodies his relationship 
with Anna. But Tolstoi's image of the mare is so narrowly assigned 
and painfully deliberate that it does little more than discourse could. 
Joyce's images, though partly assigned, however deliberate, are sug- 


gestive, indefinite, and not altogether explicable. Ambivalent, they 
reveal not only the quality of experience but its complexity. Without 
attendant or essential images, A Portrait of the Artist would be so 
much less immediate and less moving that few would pick it up 

Images play other parts in the great design. Embodying Stephen's 
experience before he is entirely aware of it, and doing the same service 
for us, they prepare for moments of realization, which could not oc- 
cur without them. Operating below conscious notice, the images, 
rhythms, and other forms project an unconscious process that comes 
to light at last. This function is no more important, however, than 
that of relating part to part and, composing a structure which, with 
the dominant narrative it supplements and complicates, creates what 
Stephen calls radiance or the meaning of the composite form. 

The first two pages of A Portrait of the Artist present the images 
that, when elaborated, are to compose the supplementary structure 
and take their place in the form. We are confronted here with a 
moocow coming down the road, with a rose (maybe green), with 
wetting the bed, with a girl, and with an eagle that plucks out eyes 
not to mention a number of other things such as dancing to an- 
other's tune. Without much context as yet, these images, acquiring 
fresh meanings from recurrence and relationship with others, carry 
aspects of Stephen and his trouble. Never was opening so dense as 
this or more important. 

Take that road, long, narrow, and strictly bounded, along which 
comes a moocow to meet the passive boy. Diction, rhythm, and the 
opening phrase (the traditional beginning of an Irish "story") sug- 
gest the condition of childhood and its helplessness. Confined to the 
road, the child cannot escape encounter with a creature traditionally 
associated with Irish legend and with everything maternal. Later, 


Stephen delights to accompany the milkman in his round of neigh- 
boring roads, although a little discouraged by the foul green puddles 
of the cowyard. Cows, which have seemed so beautiful in the country 
on sunny days, now revolt him and he can look no longer at their 
milk. Yet as he pursues "the Rock Road," he thinks a milkman's 
life pleasant enough, and looks forward with equanimity to adopt- 
ing it as his own. Innumerable connotations of word and phrase 
make it almost plain at last that the road suggests tradition, that the 
cow suggests church, country, and all maternal things, and that the 
milkman suggests the priest. The little episode, far from being a 
sign of these meanings, is no more than the embodiment of possibili- 
ties. What it implies awaits corroboration from later episodes, 
Stephen's rejection of the priesthood, for example, or his aesthetic 
query about the man hacking a cow by accident from a block of 
wood. It is certain that none of these connected irrkges is casual. As 
for the road itself, it develops into the circular track round which 
Mike Flynn, the old trainer, makes Stephen run; into the track at 
Clongowes where Stephen, breaking his glasses, is almost blinded; 
into the dark road alongside which Davin meets his peasant woman; 
and, after many reappearances, all of which confirm and enlarge the 
initial idea and feeling of tradition, into its opposite, the road that 
promises freedom on the final page. 

The images of rose, water, girl, and bird are so intricately involved 
with one another that it seems all but impossible to separate them 
for analysis. Take the rose, however, a symbol which, carrying tradi- 
tional significance, becomes, after much recurrence, Stephen's image 
of woman and creativity. Lacking sufficient context at its first ap- 
pearance to have certain meaning, the rose, made green by Stephen, 
is not altogether without possibilities. Green is the color of Ireland, 
of immaturity, and of vegetable creation; yet a green rose is un- 


natural. Art is unnatural too. Could the green rose anticipate Ste- 
phen's immature desire for Irish art? We cannot tell for sure. At 
school Stephen is champion of the white rose that loses to the red 
in an academic war of roses; and during his period of "resolute 
piety" his prayers ascend to heaven "like perfume streaming upwards 
from a heart of white rose." It is the red rose, however, that attends 
his creative ecstasies near the Bull Wall, after he resolves to follow 
mortal beauty, and in bed, after composing a poem. His soul, "swoon- 
ing into some new world," shares Dante's penultimate vision: "A 
world, a glimmer, or a flower? Glimmering and trembling, trem- 
bling and unfolding, a breaking light, an opening flower, it spread 
in endless succession to itself, breaking in full crimson and unfolding 
and fading to palest rose, leaf by leaf and wave of light by wave of 
light, flooding all the heavens with its soft flushes, every flush deeper 
than other." This heavenly vision, which follows the hell of the 
sermons and the purgatory of his repentance, anticipates his ultimate 
vision of Mrs. Bloom, the heavenly yet earthly rose of Ulysses. 

Woman, associated with rose, embodies Stephen's aspiration and, 
increasingly, his creative power. Eileen, the girl who appears at the 
beginning of the book, unattainable because Protestant, is soon identi- 
fied with sex and the Tower of Ivory, symbol of the Blessed Virgin. 
Mercedes, a dream who inhabits a garden of roses along the milk- 
man's road, suggests the Virgin by her name while adding overtones 
of remoteness, exile, and revenge. At Cork, however, Stephen's "mon- 
strous" adolescent thoughts injure her purity by desire. When Emma, 
a teaser, replaces Mercedes as object of desire and becomes in addition 
an image of his mother country and his church, Stephen transfers 
his devotion to the Virgin herself, over whose sodality he presides, 
and whose "office" becomes his formula. The wading girl near the 
Bull Wall, who embodies mortal beauty, unites all previous sugges- 


tions. Associating her with Emma, the Virgin, the rose, and the 
womb of the imagination, whose priest he becomes, he finds her an 
image of his own capacity: "Heavenly God!" his soul exclaims, its 
eye no doubt upon himself. His repeated "Yes" anticipates Mrs. 
Bloom's as the girl, stirring the waters "hither and thither," antici- 
pates the hither and thithering waters of Anna Livia Plurabelle: "He 
would create." 

Other women take their place in the great design. There is the 
common girl, persisting in memory, who stops Stephen on the street 
to offer flowers for which he cannot pay. Connected in his mind with 
a kitchen girl who sings Irish songs over the dishes, she develops 
near the end into the servant maid, who, singing "Rosie O'Grady" 
in her kitchen, proffers the suggestion at least of Irish flowers, green 
roses perhaps. Cranly's "Mulier cantat" unites her in Stephen's mind 
with "the figure of woman as she appears in the liturgy of the 
Church" and with all his symbolic women. Unprepared as yet to 
receive what she proffers in her song or unable to pay the price of 
acceptance, Stephen says, "I want to see Rosie first." 

That Rosie, another anticipation of Mrs. Bloom, sings in a kitchen 
is not unimportant. After each of his ecstasies, Stephen comes back 
to the kitchen, which serves not only as an ironic device for deflating 
him but as an image of the reality to which, if he is to be an artist, he 
must return. It is notable that his acceptance of Mr. Bloom and the 
communion with mankind that precedes the vision of Mrs. Bloom 
takes place in a kitchen. Rosie in her kitchen, the last great image 
of woman in A Portrait of the Artist, unites the ideal with the actual. 
Neither the wading girl nor Mercedes, both ethereal, can present 
to Stephen the idea and feeling of a union which someday he will 
understand. Far from seeing Rosie first, he sees her last, but by her 
aid, of which he is not fully aware as yet, he comes nearer his vision 


of above and below, of heavenly roses to be sure but of roses in 

Woman is not only rose but bird and sometimes bat. The bird, 
which makes its first appearance as the eagle who is to punish Ste- 
phen's guilt by making him blind as a bat, makes its next appearance 
as Heron, who, looking and acting like a bird of prey, tries to make 
Stephen conform. Bad at first, birds become good as Stephen ap- 
proaches mortal beauty at the beach. He thinks of Daedalus, "a hawk- 
like man flying sunward," and wants to utter cries of hawk or eagle, 
images no longer of oppression but, retaining authority, of creation. 
The wading girl is "a strange and beautiful seabird." "Her bosom was 
as a bird's, soft and slight, slight and soft as the breast of some dark- 
plumaged dove." As Stephen observes their flight, birds also become 
what he calls a "symbol of departure or loneliness." When, becom- 
ing birdlike Daedalus, he takes flight across the sea to exile, he 
unites all these meanings and confirms their association with water. 
Bats are anticipated by images of blinding, not only those of the 
eye-plucking eagle, of glasses broken on the track, and of dull red 
blinds that keep light from boys of Belvedere during their retreat but 
that of the woman into whose eye Mr. Casey spits : " Thth ! says I to 
her.' 'O Jesus, Mary and Joseph!' says she . . . Tm blinded and 
drownded . . . I'm blinded entirely.' " When they appear at last, 
bats gather up these anticipatory associations with woman, custom, 
and country. Davin's peasant woman at her door along the dark 
lonely road seems to Stephen "a type of her race and of his own, a 
batlike soul waking to the consciousness of itself in darkness and 
secrecy and loneliness." Seeming almost a bird for a moment, Emma, 
revisited, becomes another bat, but its darkness, secrecy, and loneli- 
ness connect it with himself as artist about to try silence, exile, and 
cunning. Blind to reality as yet, he may improve. Like the images of 


bird and flower, the bat is ambivalent, not only bad but good. If 
bat suggests things as they are, and bird things as they ought to be, 
it is the artist's job to reconcile them. If all these women are aspects 
of woman, and if woman is an aspect of himself, the creative part, he 
too is presented by images of bird, bat, and, besides these, water. 

Ambivalent from the first, water is either warm or cold, agreeable 
or frightening. The making of water at the beginning of the Por- 
trait seems an image of creation that includes the artist's two reali- 
ties. At school Stephen is shouldered into the "square ditch," square 
not because of shape but because it receives the flow of the urinal 
or "square." Plainly maternal by context, this image warns Stephen 
of the perils of regression, to which like one of those rats who enjoy 
the ditch, he is tempted by the discomforts of external reality. The 
"warm turf-coloured bogwater" of the bath adds something pecu- 
liarly Irish to his complex. Dirty water down the drain at the Wick- 
low Hotel and the watery sound of cricket bats (connected in his 
mind with pandybats and bats) confirm his fears. The concluding 
image of the first chapter, assigned only by previous associations, 
embodies his infantile career: "Pick, pack, pock, puck," go the 
cricket bats, "like drops of water in a fountain falling softly in the 
brimming bowl." If Stephen himself is suggested by this bowl and 
his development by an ablaut series, water is not altogether bad. This 
possibility is established toward the middle of the book, where, 
changing character, water becomes good on the whole and unmistak- 
ably a symbol of creation. On his way to the beach, Stephen still finds 
the sea cold and "infra-human." The bathing boys repel him, but 
the sight of the wading girl gives water another aspect. Rolling up 
his trousers like J. Alfred Prufrock, he himself goes wading. From 
that moment of baptism and rebirth inaudible music and the sound 
of waters attend his creative ecstasies. It is true that, relapsing a little, 


Stephen fears water again in Ulysses, but Mr. Bloom, with whom he 
finally unites, is a water lover, and Anna Livia Plurabelle is the river 

These families of developing images that, supplementing the nar- 
rative, give it texture, immediacy, and more body are not the only 
symbolic devices Joyce commands. As we have noticed, large paral- 
lels, rhythms, shifts of tone, juxtaposition, and all else that Flaubert 
commended complicate the "significant form." But deferring these, 
I shall confine myself in this place to some of the relatively unas- 
signed and unattached images that concentrate feeling at important 

Consider, for example, the opening of the second chapter. Uncle 
Charles, who is addicted to black twist, is deported to the outhouse, 
whence rising smoke and the brim of his tall hat appear as he sings 
old songs in tranquillity. Position gives this image an importance 
that import cannot justify. Hints of exile, creation, and piety, all 
relevant to the theme, may divert our understanding without satisfy- 
ing it entirely. Few of Joyce's images are so mysterious as this and, 
while occupying our feelings, so resistant to discourse. The scenery 
at Cork appeals more readily to the understanding. While in that 
town with his father, Stephen finds in the word "Foetus," carved in 
the wood of a desk, what Eliot would call an objective correlative 
of the "den of monstrous images" within him. After this corrobora- 
tion of inner disorder, he emerges from schoolroom into the sunny 
street where he sees cricketers and a maid watering plants; hears a 
German band and scale after scale from a girl's piano. In another 
book this urban noise and scenery might serve as setting alone. Here, 
more functional than that, it presents a vision of the normal, the 
orderly, and the quotidian from which the discovery of his monstrous 
interior has separated him. 


Characters are no less symbolic. The two dwarfish eccentrics that 
Stephen encounters, one on the street and the other in the library, 
seem caricatures of Stephen's possible future and of the soul of 
Ireland, but aside from that, they evade significance. By action, 
speech, and context, on the other hand, the figure of Cranly be- 
comes more nearly definite. That last interview which drives Stephen 
to exile concentrates in Cranly the forces of admission, submission, 
confession, and retreat, and he becomes the embodiment of all that 
has plagued the imperfect hero. Cranly's preoccupation with a book 
called Diseases of the Ox adds to the picture. Since Stephen as "Bous 
Stephanoumenos" has been identified with the ox, Cranly's devotion 
to his book reveals him as Stephen's most reactionary critic, not, as 
we had supposed, his friend. 

When Stephen turns seaward toward his great experience with 
the wading girl, an image which might escape casual notice not only 
suggests the finality of his action but adds to our understanding of 
his complexity: he crosses the bridge from Dollymount to the Bull. 
Readers of Dubliners may recall that crossing bridges in that work 
is as portentous as Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon; in Ulysses Ste- 
phen, a frustrated exile back from Paris, is "a disappointed bridge." 
In the Portrait, on the bridge which marks his passage from old 
custom to freedom and the waters of life, he meets a squad of un- 
couth, tall-hatted Christian Brothers, marching two by two, going 
the other way. Their direction, their appearance, and their regimenta- 
tion are important, but what reveals Stephen's character is the con- 
tempt with which he regards those who are socially and intellectually 
inferior to Jesuits. The episode, therefore, includes both his escape 
from one tyranny and his submission to another, the greater tyranny 
of pride, which, until he understands the Blooms, will keep him from 
uniting the regions of reality by art. Stephen may think of charity or 


Joyce talk of pride, but this revealing episode contributes more than 
all that talk or thought to the portrait of an artist. 

The writer of this kind of novel, says E. M. Forster, "is not neces- 
sarily going to 'say' anything about the universe; he proposes to sing." 
His song and Forster has both Melville and Lawrence in mind 
must "combine with the furniture of common sense." In Aspects of 
the Novel, where this reflection appears, Forster excludes Joyce from 
the great company to which he himself belongs. Rejecting symbolist 
as a term for it, he prefers prophetical. "A prophet does not reflect," 
he says. "That is why we exclude Joyce. Joyce has many qualities 
akin to prophecy and he has shown (especially in the Portrait of the 
Artist) an imaginative grasp of evil. But he undermines the universe 
in too workmanlike a manner, looking around for this tool or that: 
in spite of all his internal looseness he is too tight, he is never vague 
except after due deliberation; it is talk, talk, never song." As for 
Ulysses, it is "a dogged attempt to cover the universe with mud," an 
"epic of grubbiness and disillusion," and "a simplification of the 
human character in the interests of Hell." It seems a pity that one 
great symbolist cannot comprehend another, but the Irish Sea is 
wider than it looks and considerably deeper. 

As an example of another kind of symbolic structure I might take 
A Passage to India, but, reserving that for later examination, I prefer 
to consider Heart of Darkness here. Conrad regarded his fiction "as 
the outward sign of inward feelings." To create a story, he says in 
one of his letters, "you must cultivate your poetic faculty. . . . You 
must search the darkest corners of your heart ... for the image." 
As for the naturalist school of Zola and Bennett: "Tout (a, c'est tres 
vieux jeu"; for "realism in art will never approach reality." He him- 
self tries to pierce "the veil of details" to arrive at "the essence of 
life." "I am but a novelist," he says in another letter, "I must speak 


in images." Consequently his work does not "lend itself to exact 
definition," and his "inexplicable" stories "expand far beyond their 
frame." In short, as these remarkable letters prove, he saw himself 
as symbolist: 

A work of art is very seldom limited to one exclusive meaning and not 
necessarily tending to a definite conclusion. And this for the reason that 
the nearer it approaches art, the more it acquires a symbolic character. 
This statement may surprise you, who may imagine that I am alluding 
to the Symbolist School of poets or prose writers. Theirs, however, is 
only a literary proceeding against which I have nothing to say. I am 
concerned here with something much larger. ... So I will only call your 
attention to the fact that the symbolic conception of a work of art has 
this advantage, that it makes a triple appeal covering the whole field 
of life. All the great creations of literature have been symbolic, and in 
that way have gained in complexity, in power, in depth and in beauty. . . . 
As to precision of images and analysis my artistic conscience is at rest. 
I have given there all the truth that is in me. . . . But as to 'final effect' 
my conscience has nothing to do with that. It is the critic's affair to bring 
to its contemplation his own honesty, his sensibility and intelligence. 

To the common reader Heart of Darkness is a simple tale of ad- 
venture; for it was Conrad's purpose to maintain a surface "trivial 
enough ... to have some charm for the man in the street." Dis- 
tracted by that, the reader may pass lightly over what Conrad calls 
in a letter the "obscure beginning" and the "unfathomable denoue- 
ment" of his story. On the surface we have a simple journey up the 
Congo to find Kurtz, an ivory trader. Marlow, compelled by fortune 
to become a fresh-water sailor, undertakes this quest and reports its 
result to the trader's fiancee. But the narrative may be read in several 
ways as an economic or political commentary, as a moral discourse, 
or as a psychological investigation. Marlow's contempt for the Bel- 
gian imperialists, with their indifference to British ideals of duty, is 


the most obvious theme of the book. His concern with empire, how- 
ever, is surpassed by his desire to satisfy his curiosity about Kurtz, a 
gifted, eloquent man, who seems destined to become manager of the 
trading company. As we know from Lord Jim, Marlow is obsessed 
with preconceptions about the integrity of white men under diffi- 
culties in alien surroundings, and if Kurtz had not seemed to bear 
within him the seeds of morality, Marlow would not have been in- 
terested. The discovery of Kurtz's collapse and, in that famous ex- 
clamation, of his recovery constitutes the moral theme. 

Throughout this moral quest, however, Marlow is less concerned 
with Kurtz than with self-realization: exploring Africa's interior be- 
comes the exploring of man's interior, and in finding Kurtz he finds 
himself. The most you can hope from life, he observes, is some knowl- 
edge of yourself. When he sees natives howling and capering on the 
bank of the river, he is dismayed, but the worst thing about it is 
that they are not altogether inhuman. In fact he feels within himself 
a faint response to their primitive ritual. Jungle and savages have dis- 
closed to him the primitive and unconscious depths of his mind which, 
because of his preference for the civilized, seem so "ugly" and untidy 
that he has to take refuge in navigation, a way of celebrating order. 
But Kurtz's loss of integrity is even more frightening. However re- 
sponsible he once seemed, he has yielded to the primitive, the uncon- 
scious, and the natural. Not even his belated assertion of awareness 
although a moral victory is enough to appease Marlow, who gloom- 
ily confronts his horror. Even the Thames, that river of British light, 
seems at the end of his story, to "lead into the heart of an immense 

His multiple quest, which includes the action, is symbolic in itself. 
Its function, however, is not only to present and organize meanings 
but to lead to further meanings, which are disclosed by the image 

around which the work is organized. Once the narrative has led us 
to the great forest, the rest falls into place around that center, and even 
the narrative becomes subsidiary. More than the place and goal of 
the quest, the forest is the symbol that, attracting additional body 
from supporting elements, embodies all. Contemplating the forest, 
Marlow is struck by "its mystery, its greatness, the amazing reality 
of its concealed life." It seems an "implacable force brooding over an 
inscrutable intention." Statements of this kind, uniting with descrip- 
tion and action, help to establish the symbol. 

Its meaning is qualified by a system of supplementary actions and 
images, ranging in kind from significant episodes to metaphors and 
all but disembodied hints. At the beginning the primitive darkness 
of the Thames and the reaction of the civilized Roman to its swampy 
edges provide a parallel to Marlow on the tropical river. In the city 
which, though probably Brussels, suggests both Kafka and Chirico, 
the company maintains an office where Marlow discovers two women 
knitting black wool. This fatal suggestion is followed by that of the 
gunboat, anchored off the African coast, shelling the forest. "In the 
empty immensity of earth, sky, and water, there she was, incompre- 
hensible, firing into a continent." When he reaches the trading post, 
Marlow is depressed by heaps of dead machinery: a boiler in the 
grass, rusty rails, and a truck lying on its back with three wheels in 
the air. That Eliot was on the point of taking his epigraph for The 
Waste Land from Heart of Darkness is not surprising. 

Conrad's desolating images demand and find suitable relief in 
the figure of the dandy, who like Baudelaire among citizens, keeps 
the alien and the natural at one remove by elegance. Marlow's dis- 
covery of a tattered book on navigation in the deserted hut also 
affirms the ideal of discipline, but such imagistic affirmations of man's 
hope are rare. Even the similes and metaphors reiterate the burden 


of horror: the river is a snake, the city and the forest are graves, filled 
with nameless corruption, and the dying^aatives occupy an Inferno. 

The atmosphere of the forest and its accompaniments is that of 
dream. Recounting his "weary pilgrimage amongst hints for night- 
mares," Marlow says: "It seems to me I am trying to tell you a dream 
making a vain attempt because no relation of a dream can convey 
the dream-sensation." He is far too modest; for his images, his man- 
ner of speaking, all those "hints for nightmares," convey the au- 
thentic sensation. Like Kafka's Trial, Heart of Darkness may be 
read as dream; but the images of dream have significance, and we 
must ask the meaning of the forest, the heart of Conrad's darkness. 
It would be tempting to conclude that this symbol means the natu- 
ral, the primitive, and the unconscious. As sign, it conveys these 
meanings, but as symbol it carries feelings and ideas that are at once 
expanded and limited by these meanings and the context. No state- 
ment is adequate for a vision of reality whose only equivalent is the 
book, an elaborate analogy for a conception. The "idea" of Heart of 
Darkness, Conrad said in one of his letters, "is so wrapped up in 
secondary notions that you . . . may miss it. And also you must re- 
member that I don't start with an abstract notion. I start with definite 
images and as their rendering is true some effect is produced." 

Telling of his "inconclusive" experience, Marlow calls the forest 
"incomprehensible," and his journey, he confesses, was "not very 
clear. And yet it seemed to throw a kind of light." For Marlow, says 
Conrad, the meaning of an episode was not inside but "outside, en- 
veloping the tale which brought it out only as a glow brings out a 
haze." This luminous halo consists of all kinds of suggestions. The 
Russian's story of Kurtz, for example, seems to Marlow "an amazing 
tale that was not so much told as suggested to me in desolate ex- 
clamations, completed by shrugs, in interrupted phrases, in hints 


ending in deep sighs." The words of Marlow and Kurtz at night in 
the forest are the ordinary words of waking life, but behind them is 
the "terrific suggestiveness of words heard in dreams." Marlow's at- 
tempt to be discursive about his nightmare reveals not only the 
inadequacy of statement for explaining symbols but its possible sug- 

It should be plain that Conrad's vision, though no less symbolist 
than A Portrait of the Artist, differs from it in structure. In Joyce's 
book, narrative, attended by images that enlarge it, is central; in 
Conrad's book, narrative and subordinate details are centered in im- 
age. Tied to narrative, Joyce's images develop thematically in time, 
whereas Conrad's organization, more nearly static, is spatial in ef- 
fect. If metaphors of other arts can help, Joyce's arrangement is 
musical and Conrad's sculptural. T. S. Eliot once said that the sense 
of a poem is there to keep the reader's mind occupied while the rest 
of the poem does its work. Conrad's narrative assumes the function 
of Eliot's sense; and Joyce's narrative, however important, seems, 
after contemplation, central by a kind of displacement. Maybe it, too, 
is there to distract us while it organizes images that, although be- 
neath notice, do more to create the general effect. 

Of Nostromo, which is organized like Heart of Darkness, Conrad 
said in a letter: "Silver is the pivot of the moral and material events, 
affecting the lives of everybody in the tale. . . . The word 'silver' 
occurs almost at the very beginning of the story proper, and I took 
care to introduce it in the very last paragraph, which would perhaps 
have been better without the phrase which contains the key-word." 
Like that of Heart of Darkness, the principal image of Nostromo is 
surrounded and abetted by others, which improve it: the island, for 
example, and the ship proceeding without captain or helmsman at 
night without lights. Also lacking the density and richness of Heart 


of Darkness, The Secret Agent is nevertheless more nearly parallel, 
and like its predecessor, as Conrad said in a letter, "does not lend 
itself to exact definition." In place of the forest he used for his tale 
of the Greenwich observatory, as he tells us in the "Author's Note," 
the image of a great city. The idea of the book came to him, he says, 
as a "vision of an enormous town ... a monstrous town" from 
which in "darkness enough" to suit him "endless vistas opened up." 
No longer a center of light, London with its anarchists, idiots, and 
a mean little shop in its heart, proves blacker than the Congo. Each 
night on going to bed, Mrs. Verloc asks " 'Shall I put out the light ?' " 
" Tut it out,' " replies Mr. Verloc, and London "with its maze of 
streets . . . was sunk in a hopeless night," which seems fit setting 
for the falterings of a decrepit cab and all those anarchists. Not there 
to establish a political, social, or economic point, the anarchists and 
their activities, which thrive on night, are elements in this vision of 
chaos, and the attempt on the Greenwich observatory, which marks 
our time, becomes an attempt on time, space, and navigation. Mrs. 
Verloc's tragedy is accepting this darkness and confusion, as Kurtz 
accepts his, without looking too deeply into it. 

A third kind of symbolist novel is represented by the work of 
Henry Green, whom Eliot, praising the poetic novel, praised. At 
first reading, Party Going may seem centered in the symbol of the 
railroad station as Heart of Darkness in the forest or The Secret 
Agent in the city, but after exploring a little we find a less federal 
order. What seemed centralized now seems a system of almost equal 
elements, cohering not by subordination to a great image or a nar- 
rative but by glancing reflections. Maybe refraction would be a more 
accurate metaphor for the exchange between part and part and part 
and whole, but prisms are too physical for an effect at once indefinite 
and social. Finding adequate words, Green called his work a "con- 


spiracy of insinuations.'* In "The Symbolism of Poetry" Yeats, find- 
ing a word for the same effect, admires the way a poem "flickers 
with the light of many symbols ... as a sword-blade may flicker 
with the light of burning towers." He too may call upon the meta- 
phor of reflection, but "flicker" is as good a word as Green's "con- 
spiracy." Too subtle for the intellect to follow, Yeats continues, re- 
flexive flickering escapes analysis. If he is right, all we can do is point 
to parts or open them up ; but we must try, while responding to their 
"exquisite" relationships, as Joyce puts it in Stephen Hero, to con- 
template the whole until from the "organized composite structure" 
the "whatness" leaps out. Maybe all we can do while attending that 
great emergence is ask questions. 

Party Going concerns a temporarily frustrated but finally success- 
ful departure for the south of France. Max invites a number of his 
loves and parasites to go along, but it is London, and a black fog 
maroons them in the station with thirty thousand ordinary people. 
Max's wealth enables his party to retire to the station hotel, whence, 
while making a sort of love, they look down on the crowd below. 
The steel shutters that keep that crowd out keep Max's party in. Will 
the shutters hold, will the fog ever lift, is the luggage safe with the 
servants in the awful station, which of his girls will Max choose, and 
what of Miss Fellowes, indisposed, maybe drunk, with her dead 
pigeon in the next room ? Such anxieties occupy them until the fog 
lifts, and with the exception of poor Miss Fellowes and her pigeon, 
they are off. 

"This journey is being so long isn't it?" says Angela. And Alex, 
addressing a perfect stranger, says: "I'm afraid everything must seem 
very odd to you. I mean there seems to be so much going on, but you 
see we are all going on a party together abroad, and now here we are 
stuck in this hotel on account of fog." Their predicament, the station, 


and the fog imply many things. It is difficult, however, to say 
whether Green intends a study of men and women, of rich and 
poor, of modern society, or of the miserable condition of humanity 
or all of these and more. 

The meaning of the fog-bound station is complicated by recurrent 
images of birds and artichokes that seem somehow related to the 
larger symbols. As for birds, one occurs in the first sentence: "Fog 
was so dense, bird that had been disturbed went flat into a balustrade 
and slowly fell, dead, at her feet." Miss Fellowes, who is there to see 
the voyagers off, picks it up, washes it in the ladies' room, and, ob- 
served by two nannies, wraps it in brown paper. She has no idea 
why she does this. As she lies in bed, ill or drunk, watched over by 
those nannies, the others ask what it means: "She never belonged 
to any societies for animals did she ? She never kept pigeons herself 
I mean?" Why did she pick her pigeon up somewhere and then get 
so ill ? She can't have bought it off a barrow they don't sell them. 
"What did she want it for, it was so dirty? I'm sure that's what's 
been worrying us, but when you come to think of it, darling, there's 
nothing in it is there? What is it after all? Now if it had been a 
goose, or some other bird. . . ." Those two nannies, as odd as Kaf- 
ka's assistants, are no less mysterious. But the birds that Julia sees 
flying under the arch in the fog are easier to follow. Signs of sex and 
flight, as the dead pigeon seems almost a sign of frustration, they 
change meaning with their contexts as they recur together with other 
images: the childhood memory of a thicket of bamboos or maybe 
artichokes and the curious individual who may or may not be the 
hotel detective. Reappearing at the end, these puzzling images some- 
how relieve our anxieties. 

As in Living, an earlier novel of men and birds, Green uses the 
idiom used by his characters. His prose, therefore, presents what he 


is talking about; and his ambiguous tone is a comment on it. The 
spoken English of the most idle class agrees with tone, symbol, sign, 
and metaphor to compose his great conspiracy. What it insinuates, 
through his offhand manner, is a frightening vision of our oppressive 
world, but even this statement seems too definite and far too crude 
to do justice to all that flickering. 

These remarks about Party Going, written in approximately this 
form a number of years ago, represent a second reading. I allow them 
to stand as they are without attempting deeper descent under later 
lights, for here I am more inclined to demonstrate an early, and I 
think normal, response to such novels than to achieve a record for 
depth. Another reading might almost fix the relationship of arti- 
choke, station, and bird that baffles and delights me, but "almost" 
is the important word. In enterprises of this kind we confront the 
penultimate at last, and if, avoiding it by some dodge, we could at- 
tain our goal and comprehend the incomprehensible, what else could 
we do ? After all, we are but romantics, eager to lose ourselves in a 
mystery, in spite of our nostalgia for Lancelot Andrewes. 

Of Loving, which seems no less indefinable, I can speak with 
greater assurance because, no doubt, I have read it more often than 
Party Going and more recently. Loving has hardly any plot at all. 
We find ourselves among English landlords and servants of an Irish 
house in time of war. The master is away, fighting Germans (it is 
the second war), and the mistresses, now here and now away, leave 
management to servants. Of these, Raunce, the butler, is chief, but 
there are maids as well, and also a solitary Irishman who keeps the 
peacocks. Neutral, alien Ireland surrounds them, anxieties trouble 
their erotic fumblings, until Raunce decides to marry Edith, a maid, 
and, returning to England, to confront reality. This plot, if it de- 
serves the name, conveys little. Almost all is done by images, their 


relationships, and tone. From their emanations and ghostly ex- 
changes comes something that, striking mind as well as feelings, may 
be talked about. 

Furnished with gilt milk pails and chinoiseries, the house itself is 
meaningful: "For this house that had yet to be burned down, and 
in particular the greater part of it which remained closed, was a 
shadowless castle of treasures." That it contains the furniture of 
Marie Antoinette and that it is called a castle, an enclosure of refuge 
and defense in hostile surroundings, imply its isolation. The servants, 
forbidden to talk to natives, never leave the grounds. The younger 
mistress, when not in England, entertains none but an Anglo- 
Irishman and him in bed. Mistresses and servants alike are sepa- 
rated from England, from Ireland, from responsibility, and from 
each other. There are almost no connections. Even the weathervane, 
that points to something else, is broken it has a mouse in the cogs. 
Not only the troubles of autonomy but those of decadence, and all 
attendant follies, are invited by that house and its condition. 

Adorning the pleasure grounds, a dovecote and a peacock house 
correspond to the castle and its occupants. The dovecote, a reproduc- 
tion in miniature of the leaning tower of Pisa, shelters amorous 
birds, who ineffectually pursue each other round the balconies or 
push each other out. This leaning tower of fat lovers, associated with 
falling bodies and expressive of decline, takes its place with gilt 
milk pails and peacocks, traditional reminders of vanity, in a com- 
plex of refractions. Pat, the solitary Irishman, feeds the peacocks, 
and English servants feed the doves. It is no less important that one 
of the peacocks, killed by the cook's nephew and plucked, cannot be 
distinguished from chicken. Rejected by the cook and brought back 
from the dust bin to annoy her, it begins to stink. Edith, stealing 
peacock eggs, puts them up in waterglass, a preservative. Meanwhile 


a ring is lost, buried for a while under the dovecote, and mysteriously 
recovered. Both loss and recovery provoke anxieties; for rings are 
circles, and circles, as we know, suggest unity and loving while ob- 
scurity of loss and return imply impermanence. Not least among 
these details is Green's use of demonstrative "that," which removes 
all things, rings, people, and birds alike, to a suitable distance. 

What seems at first no more than a picture of Anglo-Irish decay 
becomes upon contemplation of these and other details another, a 
more ominous thing. Green's concern seems less with a particular 
situation than with that of everybody in our world and time as his 
title, no less functional than his images and tones, implies. Surely 
wider than the affair of mistress and lover or the pursuit of servant 
by servant, "loving," responsible and adult, implies connection, giv- 
ing, and acceptance, all that is foreign to the house. Only the last 
sentence promises that community; but this interpretation, leaving 
assignment far behind, is no more than possible. Unexhausted, the 
"great consult" of glancing images and rhythms continues to issue 
rays, perceptible to others perhaps or to me at another time. 

It occurs to me at this point that my examples of kinds, though by 
Irishman, Pole, and Englishman, are all from British literature. 
Maybe I should have taken Mann's Death in Venice, Kafka's Castle, 
Proust's great work, or something by Faulkner. My choice was no 
more than convenient, and as for those whom I seem to have neg- 
lected I shall do what I can with them later on. For the present, let 
us see how the symbolist novel has evolved. 

The great period commenced just before the first war with the 
appearance of Death in Venice, Dubliners, and the first volume of 
Proust; lasting through the 19305, it ended or so it seems with the 
works of Faulkner and Green. One of the richest in all literature, 
this period, which reached its climax with Ulysses, Remembrance 


of Things Past, and The Magic Mountain, saw the emergence of 
Kafka, Lawrence, and Virginia Woolf. The Trial, The Plumed Ser- 
pent, and To the Lighthouse found fitting rivals in A Passage to 
India, The Sound and the Fury, and Absalom, Absalom! After these 
came Finnegans Wakf. Since those great days, lesser writers, attenu- 
ating the tradition, have made it popular; but that some, whether 
easy of comprehension or difficult, have produced excellent books 
Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano, Hemingway's Old Man and 
the Sea, and John Hersey's Marmot Drive are sufficient evidence. 

The most formidable of these is Under the Volcano. Too indirect 
and devious to be acceptable as a book of the month, it seems never- 
theless comparatively simple if placed alongside work of Green. Like 
Mrs. Dalloway, Lowry's book concerns one day; the time is 1938, 
the place Mexico. The narrative displays the prolonged drunkenness 
of Geoffrey, the British consul, who has resigned his post and di- 
vorced his wife. She returns and, with the aid of his brother, Hugh, 
attempts a reconciliation, but fiesta and bullbaiting, mescal and 
tequila improve Geoffrey's condition. Finally, as she searches for him 
and for death, Yvonne falls under a horse, and Geoffrey is disposed 
of by fascists. Superficially this sounds like another, more violent 
and exotic lost week end, but as the jacket warns us, the surface hides 
a "deeper significance of which the characters and their actions are 
symbolic." The week end is lost but with complications. 

Of these, the first are subjective. Using techniques of Joyce, Woolf, 
and Henry James, Lowry records the impressions of his characters 
in long Proustian sentences that provide a confusion of inner and 
outer and, through memory, of past and present. Geoffrey's alcoholic 
hallucinations are interrupted by fragments of external reality: ir- 
relevant conversation, words from a travel folder, posters in the 


street. Yvonne's flow of experience confuses memory, desire, and the 
present moment. Such mental complexities are as customary as the 
use of symbols for deeper meanings. 

Geoffrey embodies the intellectual in what was once our society. 
Spain is falling and fascists are around, but, evading responsibility, 
he does nothing to preserve the culture to which he is heir. With di- 
vorce from Yvonne (who suggests reality or a way to it) and drink 
his escapes from an increasingly terrible world, Geoffrey symbolizes 
a ruling class with its learning, charm, and incapacity; and in his 
drunken snores is heard "the muted voice of England long asleep." 
Hugh, who has awakened to responsibility, represents the English 
conscience, but he has awakened too late to the need for action, and 
the aid he plans for Spain will be ineffectual. 

Swedenborg and the Cabala are invoked and, as we might expect, 
the book is filled with incidental correspondences: the dying Indian 
for whom no one cares to assume responsibility; the Ferris wheel 
and the infernal machine at the fiesta; the fractured stone, which 
implies Geoffrey's marriage and his world. Over the town broods 
the symbolic volcano and under it yawns the symbolic chasm, the 
meaning of which is fixed by a recurring quotation from Dante's 
Inferno. As Geoffrey broods in the outhouse, haunted by memories 
of his day, he thinks he occupies a private hell, but, as Lowry sug- 
gests, his hell is ours, and the heavy atmosphere of his nightmare 
circumscribes our own. The fiesta commemorates the dead. Less 
propaganda than vision, this book is richly textured and intricately 
composed. Its course is that of tragedy: a great man (great because 
he embodies our culture) falls through an inherent flaw, and we 
are moved by pity and fear. 

Under the Volcano is among the most elaborate of recent novels 


exceeded in respect of machinery by Philip Toynbee's Prothalamium 
alone but it is far from being one of the most mysterious. In this 
respect it is exceeded by The Marmot Drive, a simple tale which, 
nevertheless, gives the illusion of depths. Like John Denham's 
seventeenth-century Thames, John Hersey's book is both deep and 
clear yet, unlike that river, apparently bottomless. The hero, the 
Selectman of a remote Connecticut village near Yale, has a long- 
cherished ideal of driving wooclchucks into a pen. By zeal he makes 
the reluctant community share his great design, which is put into 
operation on the day Hester, his son's fiancee, comes for a visit; but 
the drive fails, he is overwhelmed with guilt, and the villagers, re- 
lieving their more complicated feelings, whip him in the good old 
way at the ancient post on the common. In his simplicity, he takes 
the punishment as due him for the failure of his plan, then goes 
home to plan another drive, more communal than the last. His other 
passion is old clocks with wooden works; and as the story ends, a 
clock without a face contemplates its gears upon the floor. 

The drive and its failure reveal the Puritanical sadism of the vil- 
lagers, but the Selectman, emerging as hero and victim, gains in 
stature. As for Hester, seeing her own inadequacy, she knows herself 
at last. But what of those clocks, the speck in Hester's eye, the 
abandoned church in the wooclchuck woods, the curious woodchuck 
stone, found and lost again, and what of the woodchucks them- 
selves? For the Selectman, woodchucks with their long teeth and 
underground habits may be an almost unconscious image of the 
community he tries to direct. That the villagers are almost aware of 
this unflattering correspondence is not unlikely. For us, the crusade 
and its particulars, suggesting all communities and all zeal, present 
a vision of man in society. Unassigned, the supporting images play 
an enigmatic part in a moving yet otherwise inexplicable pattern. 


That such indefiniteness is not to every taste is proved by a reviewer 
who recoiled from the "abominable allegory" as if at supper offered 

It would be unfair to conclude from other recent examples that 
the symbolist novel, having exhausted its possibilities, is decaying at 
last. Working in the enormous shadow of the great ones, some of 
the surviving symbolists, Rumer Godden or Jean Stafford, for in- 
stance, may seem reminiscent; epigraphs from Eliot and images 
from Virginia Woolf may replace invention. The trouble, however, 
may be that such novelists, less decadent than minor, are unable to 
create a context for borrowed symbols; for whether fresh or old, 
symbols do not work alone but in concert with each other and with 
other elements. Moby Dick would be a minnow without his Ahab. 


The Stuffed Owl 

1ONG SYMBOLIC parts the image is principal. Before we 
approach it, however, or, passing from the simple to the complex, 
proceed beyond image to other parts and to the whole, we must re- 
consider the meaning of image. Earlier I called the participating 
image an epitome of the whole or all but its epitome. It is fitting, 
before we receive that, to consult authority and establish usage; for 
nothing is slipperier than a word. The imagist school, founded by 
T. E. Hulme, promoted by Ezra Pound, and adorned by T. S. Eliot, 
may offer help. 

|[ In "Notes on Language and Style," a posthumous paper published 
by Eliot in his Criterion (July, 1925), Hulme, a Bergsonist who pre- 
ferred analogy to logic as a way of expressing and knowing, defines 
the image as an analogy, offered to the senses, expressing vision. 
Composed of definite words, his analogy is a solid thing which, tak- 
ing the form of a metaphor or an unattached concretion, not only 
makes the poet's thought and feeling apparent to himself and the 
reader but, preceding thought and feeling, creates them. As defined 

by Hulme, therefore, an image is not unlike a symbol. Both are solid 
analogies, but whereas our symbol, presenting itself, suggests some- 
thing indefinite, his image, suggesting something almost as definite 
as itself, seems limited if not altogether assigned. These notes, though 
fragmentary, may approximate what Hulme said in his seminar on 
imagism. i 

Ezra Pound attended it. For him, in Gaudier-Brzeska, a Vorticist 
manifesto, the symbol has a fixed traditional meaning; yet, however 
definite, a symbol such as cross or crown invites "mushy" technique. 
The image, on the other hand such as the triple sphere at the end 
of Dante's Paradiso has "variable significance." Particular, precise, 
and impersonal, it is "that which presents an intellectual and emo- 
tional complex." His symbol seems our sign and his image our 

Feeling his definition inadequate, however, he turns to autobiog- 
raphy and further example. One day in the Metro he saw beautiful 
faces of straphangers as a nonrepresentative color pattern. No 
painter, he went home to find expression in the image, the poet's 
pigment. There, after an attempt which proved of "secondary in- 
tensity," he composed the following hokjtu: 

The apparition of these faces in the crowd: 
Petals, on a wet, black bough. 

This image, he continues, which records the precise moment when 
a thing outward and objective transforms itself into a thing inward 
and subjective, is a "radiant node or cluster or vortex from which 
and through which and into which ideas constantly rush. ... In 
decency one can only call it a vortex." A radiant thing and a vortex, 
as he seems aware, are opposites, one going out and the other in; but 
since his * ortex, which receives and confuses the reader's ideas, re- 


mains alone at the end of the definition, we might assume that 
Pound's image is like those ink blots where neurotics find what they 
think is there or like Moby Dick among critics. Pound's hokjkju, 
plainer than his definition, suggests, however, that his image is an 
analogy, a metaphor in this case, that embodies feeling if not idea. 

T. S. Eliot, a disciple of Pound and Hulme, commended the meta- 
physical metaphor for combining idea and feeling. His "objective 
correlative," amounting to a definition of image, is a verbal formula 
outside poet and reader for presenting something inside them but to 
neither alike. However uncertain, therefore, the "heap of broken 
images" in The Waste Land is a way of objectifying spiritual condi- 

^In his lectures on the poetic image, Cecil Day Lewis, who is closer 
to Pound though somewhat less precise, says that the symbol, stand- 
ing for one thing alone, is denotative, whereas the image is "infi- 
nitely resonant." Despairing of definition, he concludes that "images 
are elusive things." Inclining somewhat to the other side if one can 
speak of sides in a matter like this Caroline Spurgeon, famous for 
removing Shakespeare's images from context, classifying them by 
subject, and making charts, defines the image as a word picture used 
by a poet to "illustrate, illuminate and embellish his thought." Both 
that venture and this definition are dubious. ( 

W. B. Yeats, a greater critic than these, seems almost as perplexing. 
"I have no speech but symbol," he says in one poem, and in another: 
"I have but images, analogies." Since in his essay on Swedenborg he 
identifies correspondences with symbols, and correspondences are 
analogies, he appears to identify image and symbol. Those daemons, 
therefore, who came to bring him images for poems were bringing 
symbols. This raises a further question: is the image-symbol an ele- 


ment of a poem, the poem itself, or both ? In "Byzantium," a poem 
that suggests the nature of a poem and its composition, Yeats starts 
with "unpurged images." Next, an image, evidently purged and 
more image now than man or shade, has power to summon some- 
thing both alive and dead, the work of art maybe. Calling com- 
plexities from time to itself and composing them, the image seems 
at once an element of a work, the work, and the creative imagina- 
tion. In "Ego Dominus Tuus," Ille, the Roman protagonist, calling 
to his own opposite, seeks an image, which, like Eliot's objective 
correlative, is at once impersonal and evocative. In "Phases of the 
Moon," another didactic poem, Yeats is rebuked by Robartes for hav- 
ing spent his life in the pursuit and capture of "mere images," images 
"that once were thought." Such images, once thought from the poet's 
point of view, perhaps, if not the reader's, may be elements of poems, 
but since Yeats calls them perfect and immovable, it is likely they are 
poems, too. 

Applauding the insights of Hulme, Eliot, and Yeats, and the ex- 
ample of Pound, we are now in a position to reconsider the image. 
My approach to definition, though based upon example, welcomes 
authority. The image, like the symbol of which it is a principal kind, 
appears to be a verbal embodiment of thought and feeling. An anal- 
ogy ranging in scale from the relative assignment of metaphor to the 
unassigned, the image presents what it carries. The word image may 
refer to the symbolic whole or to an element depending for part of 
its burden upon context like that stuffed owl on Mr. Bloom's man- 
telpiece. It is to image in its capacity of functioning part, however, 
that I shall confine myself in this chapter; for my image, less than 
the whole, is a constituent symbol. 

Take, for example, this image from Eliot's "Love Song of J. Alfred 


Prufrock": "men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows." One of 
many parallel concretions, this one acts with them and with elements 
of other kinds to create by interrelationship the figure of the hero 
and the vision he embodies. By itself this image suggests loneliness, 
frustration, despair, and, since a window is for looking out of, long- 
ing. Shirt sleeves and window leaning, implying class and deport- 
ment beneath those of Prufrock, who, nevertheless, sees himself in 
this lonely figure, are enriched by relationship with other images. 
There is contrast between those covered arms and the arms, elegantly 
braceleted and "downed with light brown hair," that Prufrock has 
just imagined. He sees the shirt-sleeved man at dusk, a time of day 
that connects him with the opening conceits of evening, the patient, 
the streets, and the catlike fog. The following image of the lonely 
"pair of ragged claws" at the bottom of some sea and that of rolled 
trousers, suitable for wading but not for deeper excursion into the 
waters of life, enlarge the man at the window as he enlarges them. 
These images and others, together with tone, rhythm, questions, 
statements, and periodic deflations, work upon each other and upon 
the whole until something emerges, at once the sum of the parts and, 
beyond that, the result of their interaction. We are moved, as Eliot 
observes at the end of "Preludes," another sequence of "sordid im- 
ages," by "fancies that are curled around these images"; for what 
they compose is an embodiment of our extremity. Qualified by the 
nature of the elements, this vision includes the sexual, social, and 
spiritual plight of the individual and, what is more, the state of the 
times. "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" has proved popular 
because through it we conceive more about ourselves and our reality 
than we can through the most discursive of daily papers or the littlest 
of little magazines. Prufrock's man at window is an element of this 
vision and its epitome. 


Baudelaire's giantess is a larger example. Like Prufrock himself, a 
body qualified by elements that surround it, she is central in the 
composition she informs: 

La Geante 

Du temps que la Nature en sa verve puissante 
Concevait chaque jour des enfants monstrueux, 
J'eusse aime vivre aupres d'unc jeune geante, 
Comme aux pieds d'une reine un chat voluptueux. 

J'eusse aime voir son corps fleurir avec son ame 
Et grandir librement dans ses terribles jeux; 
Deviner si son coeur couve une sombre flamme 
Aux humides brouillards qui nagent dans ses yeux; 

Parcourir a loisir ses magnifiqucs formes; 
Ramper sur le vcrsant de ses genoux cnormes, 
Et parfois en ete, quand les soleils malsains, 

Lasse, la font s'etendre a travers la campagne, 
Dormir nonchalamment a 1'ombre de ses seins, 
Comme un hameau paisible au pied d'unc montagne. 

By a pun which involves gea or goddess of earth, Baudelaire's geante, 
who plainly becomes the landscape by uniting with campagne and 
montagne, enters regions of myth and fruitfulncss and takes her 
place with Mrs. Bloom, the "gea-tellus" of Ulysses. The relationship 
of hero and giantess serves to expand them both. Two similes, those 
of the voluptuous cat at the feet of a queen and of a hamlet at the 
foot of a mountain, and two actions, crawling over her enormous 
knees and sleeping in the shade of her breasts, fix their strange en- 
counter. In it we may see mother, son, and all the troubles of Oed- 
ipus, the masochist and his lady, and the relationship of man to 
whatever else woman can embody, the metropolis, perhaps, or things 
as they are. Not only the relationship, however, but the attitude of 


the hero serves to solidify our giantess. His tone, as remote from her 
as he himself is close, contributes to the ambivalence that determines 
our view. Classical and distant in rhythm and diction, the poem is 
decadent in theme. This quarrel of grand manner with outrageous 
substance serves to present adoration and Swiftian disgust, gratifica- 
tion and horror, abandonment and reservation. Attitudes, tone, and 
relationship alike help to create the atmosphere of dream that clothes 
enormity and makes it more portentous. 

Opening another aspect, verve in the first line, from Latin verbum, 
means poetic power or imagination. Nature the image maker creates 
the giantess as the poet the poem, which, becoming one with mon- 
ster, reveals the monstrousness of all creation, whether biological or 
literary. The poet-hero's attitudes toward these creations, however 
mixed, unite at last in acceptance. "I accept the universe," said Mar- 
garet Fuller but the feeling and idea of more than such acceptance 
are embodied in this poem. Though "La Geante" and "Prufrock" 
are alike in being visions of reality, Eliot rejects the reality he appre- 
hends while Baudelaire, with greater understanding and humanity, 
accepts what we are stuck with, and his image is the symbol of that 
complex acceptance. By itself neither acceptance nor rejection con- 
stitutes merit; but the depth, quality, and scope of what an image in- 
corporates or forms are among its values. Nothing but these forms 
could acquaint us with the realities and attitudes they present. 

Giantess, Bostonian Prufrock, and even the man in shirt sleeves 
make it plain that person may serve as image. That is no more than 
we might expect; for if symbol is embodiment and image is a kind 
of symbol, a body may serve as image. Even Gerald Scales in The 
Old Wives' Tale strikes Sophia (if not us) as "the very symbol and 
incarnation of the masculine and the elegant." Indeed, body, person, 
or character as image is the most familiar kind. In his Autobiography 


and Essays Yeats is the philosopher of embodiment and in his poems 
the poet. 

^/A little after the commencement of the new century, Yeats con- 
fessed that once he had been interested in disembodied states of 
mind, lyrical moments, intellectual essences. Now, however, the con- 
trary impulse had come and he was interested in dramatic embodi- 
ment alone. In the short essays called "Discoveries," where he pro- 
poses the "thinking of the body," to give a body to "something that 
moves beyond the senses" in words as subtle, complex, and "full of 
mysterious life, as the body of a flower or of a woman" becomes his 
purpose. For example of such embodiment he takes girl playing 
guitar. Her voice, movements, expression all say something delight- 
ful that cannot be presented by speech or by another, less personal 
image. Like Dante in the Convito, says Yeats, he found "unity of 
being" in the "perfectly proportioned human body." It is true that 
Dante found an image of divine wisdom in the body, an organic 
harmony of part answering to part, but Yeats, extending Dante's 
hint and applying his own experience of drama, began to write 
poems that embodied all his concerns. What he called "the whole 
man blood, imagination, intellect running together" became a fa- 
vorite image. Fishermen, dancers, and horsemen abound in his 
poems from this time on. 

That wise and simple man, his fisherman in grey Connemara 
cloth (could this mean bawneen?), casting flies with authority and 
craft at dawn in some mountain stream, is at once the image or mask 
of Yeats and the image of an audience remote from bourgeois igno- 
bility for whom he will write cold, passionate poems. By the aid of 
rhythm, diction, and tone, the gentleman fisher presents Yeats's new 
ideal far better than essay or autobiography can. The fisher is the 
poem Yeats commends or else its concentrate. That "upstanding" 


man reappears in "The Tower," but the dancer, having once at- 
tracted Yeats, reappears more frequently. Outdancing thought in 
"The Double Vision of Michael Robartes," she presents by move- 
ment and body all that Yeats meant by unity of being; for how could 
he or anyone else tell dancer from dance? The dance of the ivory 
image in the Crazy Jane poem not only reconciles complexities but 
embodies the nature of art and love. As for the horseman who ap- 
pears on Yeats's proud epitaph at Drumcliflf, he is the image of 
whatever is unlike our democratic world. The "fierce horsemen" 
who ride from mountain to mountain, like all lovers of horses and 
women, are aristocrats and artists as far as reference goes, but beyond 
that they suggest a complex of feelings by body, action, and de- 
meanor as they pass, casting a cold eye on life and death. Bodies, 
however, can present more than ideals. The Gore-Booth girls, whose 
house pleased Yeats as much as their politics displeased him, seem 
when withered, old, and gaunt "an image of such politics." Thought 
of any kind, as Michael Robartes observes in one of the poems, "be- 
comes an image and the soul becomes a body." Person as persona 
or mask becomes impersonal image. 

Becoming general, particular heroes, as both Kenneth Burke and 
W. H. Auden observe, have always expressed their age. Bunyan's 
Christian, concentrating in his person the sensations and aspirations 
of dissent, is a fine example. Childe Harold, Manfred, Captain 
Nemo, Ahab, the Count of Monte Cristo, and even Wordsworth's 
feeble-minded boys embodied not only the interest that early roman- 
tics took in what Auden calls the "exceptional individual" but the 
aesthetic, ethical, and religious preoccupations of the time. In these 
images poets concentrated their darkest, most unsociable feelings 
and readers found correspondence for their unuttered and maybe 
unutterable ideals of exploratory quest or mysterious revenge. 


After second thought, later romantics required heroes of a less 
heroic kind to embody what they saw within themselves or around 
them. George F. Babbitt and the late George Apley represent their 
classes, and we see something of ourselves and of our time in each 
as we do in all outstanding characters; but a representative is not 
necessarily a symbol. A senator may represent Wisconsin without 
symbolizing that state of milk and beer, but if he embodies and pre- 
sents what he also represents a wing of his party or a general tend- 
ency he may serve as its symbol. In this sense Babbitt and Apley 
are as symbolic as Faulkner's Sutpen and Sartoris, who represent 
aspects of the old South, and his Snopes, who represents an aspect of 
the new. But character as image is more suitably represented by fig- 
ures more general than these, and, in recent times, somewhat less 
heroic than all but Snopes. Such images embody feelings we are 
almost afraid to acknowledge about ourselves and our situation. The 
clowns, burghers, knaves, and fools who have wandered through 
poetry for the past seventy or eighty years reveal our secret convic- 
tions about man. As Wallace Stevens's doctor of Geneva, confronting 
the sea, pats his "stove-pipe hat," uses his handkerchief, and sighs, 
we find his act and character repulsively congenial; but Auden's 
"sinister tall-hatted botanist," stooping at the spring to empty his 
phial, is closer to our fears and our capacity. 

Though these images tell us what we are like, our recent favorites 
have been the betrayed, cuckolded man and the lonely artist. In his 
notes for Exiles, Joyce, the greatest exploiter of both these images, 
says that since the publication of Madame Bovary "the centre of 
sympathy appears to have been esthetically shifted from the lover or 
fancyman to the husband or cuckold." Joyce's Richard in this play 
is an example of the symbolic cuckold, and Mr. Bloom is a greater 
one, but these are only two of many. Heroes of Proust, Evelyn 


Waugh, William Sansom, and many others demonstrate the ade- 
quacy of this terrible image. It is easy enough to see the relevance 
and appeal of cuckolds for men in our position, but what of artists ? 
Portraits of the artist Ernest Pontifex, Stephen Dedalus, or Tonio 
Kroger may project the writer's sense of exile and his pride in mak- 
ing rather than destroying; but these portraits must also please the 
frustrated rebel and creator in the rest of us. To explain the charm 
of Ernest Pontifex is simplest of all; for that successful young rebel, 
enjoying his unearned income, mocking his father and the world 
while clipping coupons, is a bourgeois dream, as acceptable in our 
time as Monte Cristo in his. 

Commonly, as Baudelaire's giantess and other giantesses prove, 
w^ 'embody our needs, if not ourselves, in the image of woman. 
Whether she is cruel and overwhelming like Salome or that Ledean 
b&dy Yeats adored, benign and overwhelming like Mrs. Ramsay or 
Jung's anima, or just overwhelming like Mrs. Bloom, she flatters our 
irresponsibility and gratifies our desire for retreat, support, and 
center. From Shaw's Ann, full of life-force, to Mann's Mme Chau- 
chat (with those Kirghiz eyes), woman as image seems almost every- 
where. Under other auspices Lady Chatterley's Lover, with its 
emphasis upon man, might have appeared as The Lover's Lady 
Chatterley. Lawrence was exceptional and so is Eliot, whose 
women, in the earlier poems at least, are of two principal kinds: 
revolting or ineffectual. On one hand we find "female smells" in 
bedrooms and, rising from effluence to source, pneumatic Grishkin 
in a drawingroom; on the other we find the hyacinth girl and a 
company of intercessors. Whereas Dante ascends from adorable 
woman to the heaven she embodies, the preliminary ascension of 
Dante's adorer seems powered by stamping woman back into Blei- 
stein's slime, whence she came. Not that Eliot is against embodi- 


ment; for the Incarnation brings Four Quartets to a kind of climax, 
and Celia on her anthill is exemplary. 

Impersonal images range in kind from metaphor, comparatively 
assigned, to images limited by context alone and those that seem to 
lack assignment. "As and is are one," says Wallace Stevens in "An 
Ordinary Evening in New Haven." I too find no useful distinction 
between metaphor and simile; in point of fact some of the "meta- 
phors" we find most agreeable, Donne's compasses and Eliot's 
patient etherized upon his table, are similes. Similes tend to be de- 
tachable and decorative, but when, as in these instances, they are 
intrinsic and functional, nothing is improved by separating them 
from metaphor. As we have noticed, symbol, metaphor, and simile 
are of a kind, and the proper distinction among them is degree of 

An abundance of similes in Mrs. Dalloway, while enriching tex- 
ture, presents character and connection. When Mrs. Dalloway and 
Septimus, her double, compare experience to brandished plumes, 
they are somehow united. Analogies of searching for pearls or dia- 
monds at the roots of grass or of fish who inhabit deep seas support 
a major theme of spiritual exploration. A metaphor of spider's 
thread, elaborated for page after page, reveals not only the attach- 
ment of Clarissa to her friends, especially Peter Walsh, but an ele- 
ment in Clarissa herself that is almost sinister; for, as we know, 
female spiders, spinning threads, consume the male. Such metaphor- 
ical assistance, found not only here, of course, but in the works of 
Shakespeare, James, Faulkner, and Proust, conditions much that we 
receive, however unconscious of it we may be or as when some 
beast springs from his jungle and by fearful symmetry or the light of 
burning clarifies all however conscious. 

Except for such as these, metaphors in poems are more conspicu- 


ous and more nearly essential. Hopkins's "Wreck of the Deutsch- 
land" is a great metaphor, built in part of subsidiary similes and 
metaphors. The poet's experience during his anxieties and that of 
five foundering nuns form the basis of a vast analogy determining a 
structure which, like any metaphor, may be expressed by an equa- 
tion: the relation of Hopkins to God is that of the principal nun to 
God. Her shipwreck is a metaphor for his spiritual trouble and its 
relief. "Lightning and lashed rod" in the second stanza, applying to 
both the elements of this equation, serve as its sign. Metaphors of the 
hourglass and the well, suggesting time and approximate eternity, 
present the poet's position as man and priest. The simile of the 
"lush-kept plush-capped sloe," crushed against a palate to flush and 
fill the being, suggests communion, which, since it is receiving God, 
supports the major theme. The vision of "pied and peeled May" that 
occupies the twenty-sixth stanza is heaven by natural correspondence. 
These analogies and that of the figure five, an exercise in Sir Thomas 
Browne's "mystical mathematics," exceed nineteenth-century ideas 
of decorum; but if one is holy enough, equations of sloe and God as 
of Virgin and gas have nothing irreverent about them as Eliot 
proves when he pursues that conceit of the wounded surgeon plying 
his steel in Sir Thomas Browne's hospital. 

Although we know Eliot as a symbolist and although his methods 
and those of Hopkins coincide at many points, we do not think 
Hopkins a symbolist. Yet the sloe may be considered the symbol of 
what it is equated with and the wreck the symbol of private experi- 
ence. Equation does not limit as narrowly as we suppose or as its 
structure implies. The resemblance of elements is only partial at best, 
leaving scope for unlimited suggestion, and beyond apparent limits 
the metaphor is indefinite. As the sloe flushes our being full we find 
more than reference in that vegetable. 


Finding delightful possibilities of vagueness in the strictest of equa- 
tions, the symbolists of France made more use of metaphor and 
simile than we commonly suppose. Take Mallarme's sonnet on his 

Toute Tame resumee 

Quand lente nous Texpirons 

Dans plusieurs ronds de fumee 

Abolis en autres ronds 

Atteste quelque cigare 
Brulant savamment pour peu 
Que la cendre se separe 
De son clair baiser de feu 

Ainsi le chrcur des romances 
A la levre vole-t-il 
Exclus-en si tu commences 
Le reel parce que vil 

Le sens trop precis rature 
Ta vague litterature. 

As the pivotal word Ainsi makes plain, octave and sestet are halves 
of an odd comparison between smoking and writing a poem. Un- 
clear at first, the simile yields its secret or some of it upon examina- 
tion. As one smoke ring abolishes another, so the images of a poem 
are lost in what they create; and the ash, preserved by the knowing 
smoker, is less their residue than their origin. Equivalent to actuality, 
the ultimate source of both rings and images, the ash must not in- 
trude among them lest "its sense, too precise for vague literature, will 
erase it." This poem, which recalls Verlaine's remarks about vague- 
ness, is a symbolist manifesto, not altogether serious as we may 
gather from tone and diction; but what they called vague, we call 
indefinite. However definite in form, Mallarme's curious little equa- 


tion creates something almost as evanescent and impalpable as the 
rings of smoke it celebrates. 

"Les Phares," a construction of another sort, consists of parallel 
metaphors; but Baudelaire is less notable for analogies limited by 
equation than for those apparently limited by explanation. "Andro- 
maque, je pense a vous!" the opening analogy of u Le Cygne," estab- 
lishes grandeur and places the bird among ancient sufferers as, frot- 
ting the dust of city pavements, it longs for rain or almost forgotten 
rivers. Surely this should be enough to confirm the swan as exile, but 
not contented with image and context, Baudelaire proceeds to ex- 
amine what he has presented. Failure to exhaust the meanings of 
the swan and its plight is implied by his final admission that the 
oppressive "image" corresponds not only to things he has mentioned 
but "a bien d'autres encore!" 

Poets writing in English have also tried and failed to explain their 
images away. The octave of Hopkins's sonnet on spring presents 
that season by a vision of juice and joy as luscious and suggestive as 
anything in English literature, but the sestet, like the second half of 
something from the bestiary, makes a meaning of the octave explicit. 
It is true that "cloy," "cloud," and "sour" thicken discourse by a 
fugitive suggestion of syrup or some other juice; but for all that the 
sestet is discursive enough to prove the insufficiency of discourse for 
what it tries. The poet's effort to impose limits upon symbol is re- 
buked by the limits of logic. 

Some recent poets have amused themselves with the machinery of 
explanation. Thus, in "Le Monocle de Mon Oncle," a sequence, Wal- 
lace Stevens begins a poem with what he calls a "parable" or a 
"trivial trope" that baffles understanding. Offering enlightenment, he 
ends the poem with another trope as obscure as the first. Maybe this 
metaphorical semblance of explanation intimates his sense of its 


futility. In any case, we are left with two all but unlimited images 
to account for instead of one, but a poem, as Stevens says in "Man 
Carrying Thing," should "resist the intelligence almost successfully." 

That the image does not resist it entirely is due most often to con- 
text; for images limited by explanation or even by pseudo explanation 
are less common these days than images limited by context alone. It 
may be that in S/. Mawr Lawrence, overcome by a preacher's im- 
patience, explains the meaning of his central horse, which proves too 
substantial to be diminished, however, and of a brightness too bright 
to be impaired. Lawrence, I repeat, is exceptional. Most images to- 
day, whether in poem or novel, are allowed to stand alone, teasing 
our understanding by nondiscursive relationship with what sur- 
rounds them. Let us think again of that stuffed owl on Mr. Bloom's 

Attendant images, those that give additional body to narrative, 
are conspicuous in Mrs. Dalloway, to which for a moment we may 
return. Peter's knife, for example, is always in his hand. "Shredding 
and slicing, dividing and subdividing" like the clocks that send their 
mechanical circles through the air, this instrument, insignificant 
alone, takes from contexts all kinds of implications and comes to 
suggest at last not only sex and intellect but aggression and defense. 
Like the flowers Mrs. Dalloway buys and accepts or her narrow 
virginal bed, this increasingly heavy knife takes its place in the great 
theme of separateness. Any of these images could be omitted with- 
out destroying the theme, which with their help accosts our feelings 
more warmly and directly. 

Still other images, finding less support from context, are almost 
like Wallace Stevens's "old song that will not declare itself." Peter, 
the knife-bearing man of Mrs. Dalloway, hears an old woman sing- 
ing outside an entrance to the tube, her voice "of no age or sex, the 


voice of an ancient spring," her mouth a mere hole in the earth, 
bubbling through skeletons and root fibers, yet proclaiming for those 
who enter the Underground a primeval May. Peter gives her a shil- 
ling, but aside from receiving such bounty her function remains un- 
clear. Possibly she is a symbol of life, persistent through skeleton and 
root, like the old woman in the room who fixes Mrs. Dalloway's at- 
tention that evening. There is also the image of the kite in Somerset 
Maugham's story of that name though I know it only from the 
moving picture. What the kite means to its flier or what it may mean 
to us, though discussed by legal gentlemen at the end, remains ob- 
scure and fascinating. Most enigmatic of all, however, is the camera 
at the end of Mann's Death in Venice: "A camera on a tripod stood 
at the edge of the water, apparently abandoned; its black cloth 
snapped in the freshening wind." An artist is no camera; yet some- 
how the image corresponds to dying Aschenbach and concentrates 
the feeling of abandonment not only his but that of society. Ap- 
propriate but almost entirely unassigned, such images move us while 
they rebuff our reason. 

In respect of this and speaking of tripods such images are not 
unlike a piece of sculpture by Reg Butler, entitled "The Oracle," 
lately exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art. This object, intended 
for display at a technical college near an airfield in England, ap- 
peared in New York without its intended context. A rusty metal 
thing on three legs with a sort of tail and neck, it is far from repre- 
sentative, however reminiscent its form may be of insects, Crustacea, 
mechanical contraptions, or anything at once primitive and ad- 
vanced, vital and mechanical. According to a note fixed to its base, 
the sculptor wanted the thing to be "suggestive" and "evocative," but 
of what he does not say. By title, its only limitation, it may bring to 
mind the oracle on that tripod at Delphi, who, according to Hera- 


clitus, "neither utters nor hides his meaning, but shows it by a sign." 
In Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, a work extending in 
time and almost too vast for apprehension as an object, there are 
similar objects, the three spires, for example, in the first volume. 
Proust prepares the way for this vision by a significant reference 
to Baudelaire, in whose tradition he works, and by a general discus- 
sion of objects which seem "to be concealing, beneath what my eyes 
could see, something which they invited me to approach and seize 
from them, but which, despite all my efforts, I never managed to 
discover." "Teeming, ready to open, to yield up to me the secret treas- 
ure of which they were themselves no more than the outer cover- 
ings," such objects, providing "unreasoning pleasure," have littered 
his mind with "a confused mass of different images, under which 
must have perished long ago the reality of which I used to have some 
foreboding, but which I never had the energy to discover and bring 
to light." 

Given a lift in Dr. Percepied's carriage, young Marcel encounters 
an image that he does not abandon without thorough exploration. 
He observes the twin spires of Martinville, lit by the declining sun, 
and behind them a third spire, that of Vieuxvicq, and as his move- 
ment in time and space continually alters the aspect and relationship 
of the three spires, their mobility and luminosity entrance him, af- 
fording the special pleasure he has always found in images that seem, 
like Carlyle's symbols, "at once to contain and conceal." Contempla- 
tion and analysis yield at last a little of what the "vision" offers him. 
Taking out pencil and paper, he composes a prose poem, rhythmic, 
descriptive, and filled with similes of girls and flowers. This trifle, 
which clears up nothing for us, relieves his mind of its "obsession" 
with the steeples and their mystery, and his words, an "equivalent" 
for the experience, permit its recapture. Since what pleases him now 


is less those steeples than his words, "what lay buried within the 
steeples . . . must be something analogous to a charming phrase." 

Omitting the attempt at analysis, Joyce would have given the 
images alone to make of what we could. Even if he had included 
its literary equivalent, a poem by Stephen perhaps, he would not 
have talked about it. But Proust's analysis, less penetrating than it 
seems, also leaves us where we were, and discourse proves as non- 
discursive as image. Those steeples, filled with mysterious sugges- 
tions, seem an analogy for something, maybe something having to do 
with the setting sun and changing relationships in time and space. 
What Marcel finds is an analogy for an analogy. His prose poem on 
steeples is less an analogy for steeples than for his feeling about 
them, and we are left, as we are after reading Stevens's "Monocle," 
with two undeclared analogies. 

For his little poem Marcel has decomposed experience, transposed 
it into words, and recomposed it in a way that recaptures something 
of the original experience. Not altogether pleased with his verbal 
equivalent, which must have seemed to him at last as inadequate as 
it seems at once to us, he revises it years later (in The Captive). That 
he returns to it shows how the experience continues to haunt him. It 
also comes to mind when in another carriage, this time near Balbec, 
he observes three trees. Apparently "double in time," they prove even 
more enigmatic than the steeples, which he does not begin to under- 
stand until the last volume. Although such "signs" and "hiero- 
glyphs," he says, have no meaning unless one extracts it, discursive 
analysis is not the way; for the greater part of the meaning must 
come to us from some spiritual analogue, a moment of revelation 
or the work of art, a better one presumably than his first attempt. 

Since the "privileged moments" he has been enjoying are at once 
the occasions and the concrete embodiments of what they evoke, it 


occurs to him that his experience of the steeples is not unlike them. 
There is a difference, however, between the petite madeleine and 
the steeples: the privileged moment unites sensation with memory; 
the experience of the steeples unites sensation with a promise to 
which something within him responds, and, evading his intellect, 
holds out to his unconscious a hint of capacity and future achieve- 
ment. It becomes plain to him, as it does to us after we have put the 
last volume down, that the image of steeples is an epitome of his 
book as well as a clue to one of its meanings. The changing relation- 
ship of viewer and objects in time and space, lighted by the setting 
sun, anticipates the disclosures of the last great party. Steeples become 
analogous now to people or parties, the shifting point of view is 
like his own, the sunset seems social and the prose poem the trans- 
formation of time and change by the work of art. A symbol that 
waits to disclose that much of its burden for fifteen or sixteen vol- 
umes, and then depends upon context and inference, is all but un- 
assigned altogether unassigned for those who tire before the end. 
For those who endure, the discovery of steeples, uniting a sensation 
of the last volume with a memory of the first, is a moment as privi- 
leged as any of Marcel's. 

Symbols that precede their attendants are even more mysterious 
in plays. To a member of the audience, whether in orchestra or 
balcony, or even to a critic on his aisle or a reader in his closet noth- 
ing could seem less definite than gin and water in Eliot's Coctyail 
Party. In the first act of that comedy the Unidentified Guest asks 
for gin and water, odd but possible in a society where Martinis seem 
unnatural. A few minutes later he asks for his peculiar drink again, 
and our attention is entirely engaged not only by a third request 
but by a song about drinking gin and water. In something by Noel 
Coward, to which Eliot's play bears a superficial resemblance, both 


song and repeated demand would serve comedy alone; but as we 
know. The Coctyail Party was composed by a symbolist. Even with- 
out this knowledge we might wonder if the Guest's beverage is more 
than mildly diverting or if the cocktail party itself is more than con- 
venient. Why, moreover, does Edward, the host, persistently forget 
his guest's preference ? And what of the flat champagne that others 
choose ? The first act fails to appease our curiosity about the mixture 
of gin and water, which, though seeming important, lacks certain 
import; and the last act, disclosing another cocktail party, increases 
our uncertainty. Here the Guest, now identified as Sir Henry Har- 
court-Reilly, an analyst or confessor, prefers plain water without 
gin; for this, he says, is a different occasion. "To what does this lead ?" 
asks Edward as if our spokesman ; and as the Guest himself remarks : 
"nobody likes to be left with a mystery." 

Recollection in anxiety after we have reached our homes or beds 
may find the theme a limiting context for the perplexing image. 
Sir Henry has commended two ways of adjustment, martyrdom near 
anthills and making the best of a bad job. It seems possible that his 
preference in drink embodies and predicts these ways, which like 
Celia's experience can only be "hinted at in myths and images." Gin 
is a spirit, and water, as we know from "Dry Salvages," may serve 
as an image of life in time. At the first party gin and water may 
indicate a choice and at the second plain water may celebrate Ed- 
ward's "appointed burden." These words, which seem almost Calvin- 
ist, remind us that gin implies Geneva, an element in the thirty-nine 
articles. The juniper, which flavors gin, is an evergreen, and tree 
implies the cross. Like the Church of England, a cocktail is a mixture, 
and a party, however secular, is a kind of communion. These possi- 
bilities, too ingenious, I am afraid, though suggested by the play 
as a whole and by what we know of Eliot's habit, remain indecisive. 


Far from signs, the images are no more than adumbrations, of which 
the ritual that closes the second act is one of the more perplexing 
examples. As Sir Henry and the other angels pass the decanter and 
parody the litany, is their drink straight gin? Eliot likes to leave 
a little fruitful mystery around. In a poetic play, he said, "you get 
several levels of significance," plot for the simple, character for the 
thoughtful, words and phrases for the literate, and for those with 
sensibility "a meaning which gradually reveals itself," according to 
"different degrees of consciousness." Symbols like gin and water, 
water, and possible gin are among the instruments of this gradual 
but never final revelation. 

No less inviting, Ibsen's wild duck is even less definitely assigned. 
There she sits in the attic, displaced and injured, one wing broken by 
shot, one leg twisted by the dog that retrieved her from the depths of 
the sea where she had sought refuge. Around her in the attic are 
rabbits, hens, foreign books, dried Christmas trees, and a clock that 
works no longer. Now and again Ekdal, scouting among the Christ- 
mas trees, shoots a rabbit, but the old sportsman cherishes the sitting 
duck, which, indefinitely suggestive, is a center of values. To old 
Ekdal, once a hunter of bear, his duck in the attic recalls not only 
the freedom he has lost but his present injuries and frustration. 
Gregers, whose father shot the duck and injured Ekdal, is impressed 
by the duck's timelessness (now that the clock has failed), her de- 
scent to the depths of the sea, and her return to light in the jaws of 
a dog. In the dog he sees himself and in the duck, clinging to weeds 
on the bottom, he sees an illusion to be destroyed. Hialmar, the vic- 
tim of this illusion, sees the duck as himself until, enlightened by 
Gregers, the retriever, he turns against darkness and aqueous depths. 
Relling also finds the duck an image of illusion, but the necessary 
life-illusion that Conrad was to call the "destructive element" in 


which, although it destroys us, we must immerse. Identifying the 
duck with herself, Hedwig sacrifices both by suicide. Gina observes 
that there is too much fuss about a duck that is duck to her and 
nothing more. To each his duck as if Ibsen's design were to display 
the nature of symbol. Plainly the bird is unitive, revelatory, and vari- 
ously significant, but what we are to make of her is more than we 
can say; for we are wiser than those Norwegians. All we know for 
sure is that the duck embodies the meaning of the play and, by 
the aid of action, speech, and immediate context, presents it. 

Yeats praised Ibsen's "wild duck in the attic" and Maeterlinck's 
"crown at the bottom of the foundation" as "vague symbols that set 
the mind wandering from idea to idea, emotion to emotion." But 
once in a while he felt lost in a "darkly splendid world" of "unintelli- 
gible images," and it seemed safer on the whole to use "a symbolism 
handled by the generations." If Ibsen's duck were a swan or an eagle, 
it would carry a more intelligible meaning; for swan, eagle, rose, 
moon, tree, and the like are traditional images. Beyond fixed refer- 
ence, such images permit personal enlargement and mix the virtues 
of mystery with the assurance of old directions. What is more, the 
past has conferred beauty and richness upon them. "It is only by 
ancient symbols," says Yeats in his essay on Shelley, "by symbols that 
have numberless meanings beside the one or two the writer lays 
an emphasis upon, or the half-score he knows of, that any highly 
subjective art can escape from the barrenness and shallowness of a 
too conscious arrangement, into . . . abundance and depth. The 
poet of essences and pure ideas must seek in the half-lights that 
glimmer from symbol to symbol." Traditional images, expressing 
"personal emotion, through ideal form" become "a mask from whose 
eyes the disembodied looks." "A hundred generations might write 
out what seemed the meaning, and they would write different mean- 


ings, for no symbol tells all its meaning to any generation." In these 
and other passages in his Essays Yeats, the exploiter of swans, affirms 
his general preference for images at once assigned and unassigned, 
personal and impersonal, enriched by the past and open to present 
expansion. He was not alone; for by image and discourse alike Eliot 
too was always mixing memory with desire and tradition with 
individual talent. 

t A traditional image is either a natural thing, like a tree, or an arti- 
fact, let us say a crown. The crown, a hat of distinction, has been 
symbolic from the start. Not so the tree; for in its original context a 
tree is a tree, which becomes symbol when removed to an artificial 
context or when such context has been projected around it. Even 
when so removed or improved, its meaning is inconstant, differing 
from time to time and from place to place. In a culture at a time tree 
may come to mean virtue, let us say, or aspiration; and custom, affirm- 
ing a general agreement, enriches it. Men of another time and place 
may find tree an image for home or mother, and for years all will 
applaud the association as the most normal thing in the worktyTradi- 
tional images owe such meanings neither to necessity nor to chance, 
however, but to something in between. Finding a tree the image of 
mother or aspiration demands something of the tree maybe quality, 
appearance, or shape else the association, lacking felicity, could 
not endure still less begin. The traditional images I am concerned 
with here are those received by European culture since Dante's time 
or in some cases far earlier, images that seem as natural now as their 
origins. No doubt they ordered things otherwise in the Ming dy- 
nasty or the Tang, where trees for all I know meant politics or 

The abundance of images from past times in our time is easy to 
explain. Dismayed by flux and finding the illusion of stability in 


images from a solider past, poets have rummaged Dante for roses 
and Baudelaire for swans. At a time of violent change such images, 
affording a comfortable sense of continuity and permanence, ap- 
proximate that union of eternity with time which pleased Eliot and 
Yeats. At a time, moreover, when the poet feels separated from the 
reader, the traditional image with its quota of reference is a way of 
closing the gap between them by partial communication. Although 
the French symbolists used an occasional image of this sort, they de- 
lighted in privacy. Mallarme's swan is far from typical of his school, 
but Remy de Gourmont's hypocritical rose, plucked for Ash Wed- 
nesday by T. S. Eliot, announces our present temper. Even Dr. Sit- 
well exchanged the facades, the furry grass, the wooden stalactites, 
and the other ornaments of her French youth for wasteland, sun, 
and rose. 

Like the real toads of Marianne Moore's imaginary gardens, the 
traditional flowers of contemporary literature seem odd in gardens 
both commonplace and exceptional. Owing some part of its color and 
fragrance to Dante and Lewis Carroll, the rose of Eliot's Four 
Quartets becomes through context an image of personal frustration, 
not unlike those hyacinths proffered in The Waste Land to the in- 
capable hero. Like the hyacinth, the narcissus owes fixed meaning 
to myth and variety to individual requirements. Whereas the "black 
narcissus" of Rumer Godden's novel of that name seems no more 
than the perfume ignominiously used by an oriental dandy, it ac- 
quires connotations that justify the emphasis placed upon it. Sister 
Phillippa wants jonquils and daffodils for the convent garden. Like 
that perfume, these flowers of the narcissus family call to mind 
the original Narcissus, who, suggesting both Sister Clodagh's vanity 
and her rebirth, summarizes in one allusive image the principal 
theme of the novel. The blackness of this flower implies not only a 


nun's habit and the unworldliness that threatens rebirth but also 
the period of trial and deprivation that must precede it. This took 
a while to figure out; but most traditional flowers, whatever their 
eccentric varieties, are simpler and so are fruits. 

Fruit is traditionally (and actually) sexual, but Lawrence at once 
improved and exhausted its possibilities. "Every fruit has its secret," 
he says, telling it in Birds, Beasts and Flowers. His pomegranate with 
its fissure and his heavy, globular, fleshly peach with its groove and 
hairy skin leave nothing unsaid. As for the fig, an image that Eliot 
was to use for sensuous temptation in Ash Wednesday as in "Pruf- 
rock" he had used the peach : "You feel at once it is symbolic," says 
Lawrence, "It is female ... it stands for the female part." "Fruit 
of the female mystery," recalling Eve's leaves together with secular 
wounds, slits, and lips, the fig with its abundant limitations satisfies 
those who tire of "the limitations of the Infinite." Lawrence may 
add nothing but brilliance to tradition; but reference brilliantly em- 
bodied becomes more than reference, and tradition, becoming a 
present thing, recaptures mystery. 

Fruit depends from tree, no less traditional. Endowed by the scrip- 
tures with reference to knowledge, life, and cross, the trees of secular 
literature, exploiting this inheritance, proceed beyond it. The "wych 
elm" that guards Forster's Howards End, a house as symbolic as its 
tree, may be less elaborately rooted and less great than Yeats's "great- 
rooted blossomer," but it serves similar purposes. From Hardy's 
greenwood tree to the rude red tree of Dylan Thomas the trees of 
literature, like their biological cousins, owe as much to heredity as 
to environment. 

Relieving loneliness, conquering change, and increasing substance 
by memories, traditional images commonly precede their private 
renewal. But in the works of Joyce, who liked to do things back- 


wards, particulars sometimes precede the traditional image, which, 
instead of origin, becomes conclusion. Hidden by the details that 
embody it, the image is what we must discover and the climax of 
the tale. "Clay," one of the stories of Dubliners, provides an instance 
of this reversal. It is Halloween, the scene a laundry, and the dtcor 
apparently naturalistic. Preparing for "her evening out," Maria, 
whose long nose all but meets her long chin, seems among "big 
copper boilers" a "veritable peace-maker." The time, her name, her 
appearance, the equipment around her, and the reference to the 
Mass for All Saints' Day suggest that the poor old thing is at once 
witch and Virgin. "Maria is my proper mother," says Joe as if to 
confirm the second of these suggestions. Her laundry, though Prot- 
estant, is dedicated to making dear dirty Dublin clean; her purse is 
from Protestant Belfast and her attitude, suitable to the relationship 
of subject to ruler, toward the colonel on the tram is meek. Maria's 
bewitched frustration is proved no less by her loss of cake and her 
omission of the amatory second verse of Balfe's song than by her 
choice at the Halloween party first of the bowl of clay, signifying 
death, and second of the prayer book. Joyce's design, however, is 
not to present a frustrated virgin amid naturalistic scenery but 
through her in her context to create an image to embody and rein- 
force the meaning of his book. This image, the traditional embodi- 
ment of Ireland, is the Poor Old Woman, who served Yeats in 
Cathleen Ni Houlihan and was to serve Joyce again as the milk- 
woman of Ulysses. Having recreated this traditional image, Joyce 
employs it to offer a vision of Ireland herself and her choice of the 
decay, death, and submission he has escaped. 

"Birds, beasts, men, women, landscape, society, are but symbols, 
and metaphors," says Yeats in his Autobiography, "nothing is studied 
in itself, the mind is a dark well, no surface, depth only." Such 


images, living in the "great memory," possess the imagination of 
man, and once they have possessed it, become "an embodiment of dis- 
embodied powers" and repeat themselves in "dreams and visions." 
The "subconscious life," he says in his essay on Shelley, seizes upon 
"some passing scene" and moulds it into "an ancient symbol with- 
out help from anything but that great memory." By that great mem- 
ory Yeats means what we call the unconscious and by the images 
it contains he means what we call archetypes. The traditional image 
is often though not necessarily archetypal. Freud's houses, trees, 
birds, and flowers inhabit our dreams while Jung's woman and his 
other "archetypes" fill those of the less respectable. According to 
Jung and on this point Freud would not disagree an archetype 
is the imagistic residue of racial experience, which, presenting our 
deepest concerns, comes from the unconscious where it resides to 
tease our waking minds. Carrying "memories backward thousands 
of years," borrowing beauty and "far-off suggestion" from previous 
usage, as Yeats observes, these images keep "half their secret to them- 

That such images from the unconscious retain the power to move 
us, however unconscious of them we may be, is the point of Maud 
Bodkin's Archetypal Patterns in Poetry: Psychological Studies of 
Imagination, which accounts for the emotional significance of cer- 
tain poems from the Greeks to Eliot and Lawrence. The archetypal 
pattern within us "leaps in response," she says, to that in the poem if 
the poet has availed himself of images that have "taken shape in 
the fantasy of the community." Concentrating experience, both in- 
dividual and collective, by his images, the poet unconsciously evokes 
our unconscious reaction. Miss Bodkin is liberal enough to receive 
Ernest Jones on Hamlet as one of her proofs, but on the whole she 
follows Jung, who in his Integration of the Personality calls arche- 


types genuine symbols, ambiguous, full of intimations, and inex- 

Under archetype, though some of my examples may be unorthodox 
according to one school or the other, I include landscape and sea, 
enclosures such as garden, island, and cave, and in addition city and 
tower. Uniting the personal and the general and commonly am- 
bivalent, these images, not necessarily symbolic in themselves, be- 
come symbolic by context, first in our sleeping minds and then in 

Of landscape as image, Yeats, who had much to say about sym- 
bols of most kinds, had much to say. Impatient with naturalistic 
scenery for the stage and with representative painting for the easel, 
he preferred to regard landscape, liberated from utility or photogra- 
phy, as the image of an "infinite emotion/' In the world about him, 
among the galirif ""mansions of Dublin or below Ben Bulben, he 
sought "a landscape that is symbolical of some spiritual condition." 
Hopkins, who devoted large sections of his notebooks to details of 
landscape, invented "inscape," which, suggested by landscape, is the 
essential and individual quality of a thing. Every landscape, he be- 
lieved, has its inscape or something peculiar that it embodies and 
shows forth. But the principal authority on landscape in our time is 
W. H. Auden, who devoted The Enchajed Flood not only to the 
sea as romantic image, but to desert, island, garden and city as well. 
His "Paysage Moralise," a sestina, reveals this preoccupation in five of 
its terminal words: valleys, mountains, water, islands, and cities. The 
sixth word is "sorrow," of which apparently the other five are im- 
ages. Let water (in the manner of Hopkins's sloe) "gush, flush" valley 
and mountain, Auden prays in the envoy, and let us leave islands 
for cities. The hero of "Adolescence," one of his better poems, is 
reminded by landscape of his mother's figure; for Auden is a Freud- 


ian, and, like the master, tends to regard symbol as sign or symptom. 
As a disciple of Kierkegaard and Tillich as well, he finds land- 
scape no longer the receptacle of indefinite suggestions but some- 
thing to be moralized. Not that the arctic, alpine or industrial bar- 
rens of his early poems, full of potholes, slag heaps, and rusting 
equipment, lack suggestive power; but Auden has become so "cold 
sober" and so fully conscious, like Prospero in "The Sea and the 
Mirror" or like one going home from the analyst's couch, that he 
has renounced magic and art for what he calls reality. "The Sea and 
the Mirror," that curious mixture of prosaic verse and poetic prose, 
is an obvious analogy for Auden's present commitment to what his 
Caliban calls "feebly figurative signs"; for Auden's vestigial land- 
scapes, divested of imagination and all other impediments to moral- 
ity, have become allegorical, fanciful, and significant. While old 
Yeats, having made his choice, was "raging in the dark," Auden 
began to lecture in the light. 

The sea, which depends for meaning upon temporal or cultural as 
well as literary context, is commonly ambivalent, implying both 
life and death. To Freud the amniotic sea is our beginning and, for 
sons, the end. To Virginia Woolf, as much Bergsonist as Freudian, 
the sea is flux, time, life, death, something that our fishlike soul swims 
in. To Conrad the alien sea, an image of our discouraging universe, 
is what sailors must conquer or endure. As Auden explained at his 
blackboard at Swarthmore, the sea, however ambivalent, and the 
desert are iconographical opposites. His Alonso in "The Sea and 
the Mirror" follows a kind of "tightrope" between the sea of sensu- 
ality and pure deed on the one hand and the desert of pure intellect 
on the other. This reduction to extremes fixes a reference if not 
the connotation of these areas. 

We need not linger by the sea. As symbol it is too familiar to de- 


tain us; but the desert, though conspicuous in recent literature, isjun- 
familiar enough to require contemplation. In Hardy's dramatic trio- 
let, "Winter in Durnover Field," which concerns a number of birds, 
pecking a frozen field in vain, grotesque frivolity of form and tone 
quarrel with desperate matter to reveal an attitude toward man's 
condition, centered in an image of northern desert, that makes the 
verses seem a Waste Land in miniature. The implications of Eliot's 
more elaborate desert, which reappears with cactus in "The Hollow 
Men," are personal, social, and spiritual. It was his achievement to 
provide an analogy not only for his private horrors but for the 
desolation, infertility, and despair that men between the wars found 
within themselves and around them. Whatever the poet may have 
intended, readers as experienced as I. A. Richards saw little hope of 
rain in a prospect that expressed the lostness of a generation and its 
moral dessication. The desert to which Eliot is always retiring like a 
saint seeking a pillar is the most extensive of our century, but that 
of Yeats, though less familiar, is more promising if this word may 
be used for barrens. Nevertheless he may have been moved by Eliot's 
example; for in the Preface to The Cat and the Moon (1924) Y^ats 
says: "The other day ... I read that strange 'Waste Land' by Mr. 
T\jC.^Eliot.' J Even before this experience, however, the desert had 
figured in such poems as "Ego Dominus Tuus" and "The Double 
Vision of Michael Robartes," where Bedouin, Sphinx, stone, and sand 
acquire importance in his store of images. Far from implying in- 
fertility, Yeats's Arabian and Egyptian wastes seem by context to 
mean abstraction, all that is opposite the complexities of the "gong- 
tormented sea." In "The Gift of Harun Al-Rashid" Arabian sands 
under a burning sun give philosophers, djinns, and mathematicians 
wisdom. The great wheel is but an emblem in those sands; and in 
"some bookish desert, the Thebaid, or the lands about the Mareotic 


sea," occupied by ascetics on their pillars, Yeats found triumphs of 
intellect as great as those attributed to the Sphinx herself. Meanwhile 
in his oasis amid the sands wise Solomon entertained his Sheba or 
she him. In Yeats's iconography, one that he shared with many 
romantics, the moon signifies imagination, the sun intellect and fact. 
For many years Yeats avoided sun, but a growing desire to unite 
moon and sun in "one inextricable beam" commended sunny desert 
as much as moony tide. Joyce's more compendious desert, centered 
in Mr. Bloom's back yard, is closer to Eliot's and a product of the 
same year. But though Ulysses and The Waste Land present the idea 
and feeling of infertility, they differ in respect of this: Eliot's hero is 
unable to do anything about his desert, but Mr. Bloom goes out to 
fertilize his. 

Like desert, mountain and tower are generously endowed with 
reference and connotation. From the time of Pilgrim's Progress to 
go no earlier these awful eminences, displaying their archetypal 
and traditional meanings, have invited individual treatment. Freud's 
dream, Auden's F6, and the mountain which provides a site for 
Mann's Hermetically sealed hospital reveal the capacity of the image. 
Though the tower of Milton's Platonist has little in common with 
Gerard de Nerval's "tour abolie" or the dark tower to which Childe 
Roland came, it is equally traditional. However archetypal, the 
towers of Yeats, Joyce, and Virginia Woolf , and, above all, that of 
Ibsen show modern improvements. 

TfoJMaster Builder, rich, complex, and inexhaustible, is one of 
Joyce's great examples. An old man with two girls, Solness is a 
prototype of H. C. Ear wicker, the hero of Finnegans Wa\e, who 
also builds and falls from tower. Fear, dizziness, public indifference, 
and the menace of youth have transformed Solness from a daring 
builder of churches to a builder of towerless homes; but Hilda, a 


member of the generation he fears, interrupts his frustrated brood- 
ing. Amorous of noble erections and suitably dressed as a mountain- 
eer, she demands those castles in the air that he once promised. She 
has seen him place a wreath on the pinnacle of his highest tower, 
but another wreath, ambiguously signifying success and death, would 
be "tremendously thrilling." Convincing enough but hardly realistic, 
tower-demanding Hilda seems a projection of Solness's ego, his de- 
sires, and his fears. She and the tower reveal not only his exhibition- 
ism but the guilt he shares with other modern heroes and his creative 
urge. His dizziness on ascending towers is that of achievement and 
conscience. To become a "free builder," paying the price in suffer- 
ing, he has had to offer up family and friends, but to become a 
builder at all he has had to sacrifice the higher reaches of his art to 
popularity. That his final tower is domestic improves the complica- 
tion. The exiled, guilty, and all but frustrated artist in our time and 
the nature of his art have never found more impressive embodiment 
in character or image. The tower's traditional references to sex, soli- 
tude, and aspiring pride allow these brilliant extensions. 

More than phallic and proud, the tower resembles castle or house. 
Such images of enclosure, together with island, garden, cave, and 
city, are also ambivalent. Implying retreat, isolation or even trap, 
they are disagreeable but agreeable in implying refuge, creation, and 

"Consider the subtleness of the sea," says Melville in Moby Dicf( f 
"how its most dreaded creatures glide under water, unapparent for 
the most part, and treacherously hidden beneath the loveliest tints 
of azure. . . . Consider all this; and then turn to this green, gentle, 
and most docile earth; consider them both, the sea and the land; and 
do you not find a strange analogy to something in yourself ? For as 
this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of 


man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encom- 
passed by all the horrors of the half known life." Consider also the 
island of Conrad's Victory, there to embody Heyst's destructive illu- 
sion of apartness and to prove, as he learns in the end, that no man is 
an island. Baudelaire imagined two islands. One, an image of order, 
Beauty, and peace in "L'Invitation au Voyage" is all that is opposite 
our world. The other in "Un Voyage a Cythere," an "allegory" of 
love as an island, is "triste et noire." Promising flowers of Venus, this 
island proves a desert of venereal horrors in the midst of which the 
poet finds "un gibet symbolique ou pendait mon image." 

Among gardens, Adam's is famous, but there are snakes, and in 
the happy fall, celebrated by Saint Augustine, Milton, and Joyce, 
garden seems inferior to responsibility and work without those walls. 
Dante's Purgatory, The Romance of the Rose, and The Faerie Queene 
show gardens good or bad. Marvell's garden, joined to Eden by 
melons to stumble on, is the lobby of Paradise or its earthly equiva- 
lent. But most gardens of contemporary literature, those of Eliot or 
Joyce in particular, are either barren, difficult of access, or contrived 
by memory alone. Maybe one gains entrance at last, as Alice does, to 
find the rose a painted thing and the painters flat with terror among 
their pots. 

Caves and burrows are more congenial. Robinson Crusoe in his 
cave, surrounded by hoarded goods and elaborate walls and these 
on an island that is at once refuge and trap is a bourgeois vision and 
the symbol of a class, Defoe was unaware no doubt of this possibility 
in the image he made, but Auden's barflies of The Age of Anxiety 
in their Third Avenue bar know their cavelike retreat an escape 
from the moral choices of the avenue. More moving images of en- 
closure, however, were made in Russia and in Prague. 

"The Man in the Shell," a story by Chekhov, who, in The Cherry 


Orchard offered one of the least assigned of contemporary images, 
reveals a man who always wears rubbers and a heavy coat. He carries 
an umbrella in a case, and his bed in a boxlike room has curtains to 
pull around it. When he retires to that room and dies after one ex- 
cursion into the frightening world, he looks happy in his coffin. The 
narrator of this discouraging story finds something of this man in 
those kept by routine, convention, and fear from what surrounds 
them; but the meaning of the image is less definite and more general 
than this assignment. 

In Notes from Underground, a kind of manifesto that anticipates 
Freud, Jung, and Kafka, Dostoyevsky presents what we might call 
an introvert. His room and that of Lisa are haunts of a man whose 
metaphor, elaborated throughout the work, is underground burrow- 
ing like that of some animal. His burrow includes the unconscious, 
the deepest layers of personality, its contradictions, and the unmen- 
tionable. Joyce was born on groundhog day, but it was Kafka in The 
Burrow who raised Dostoyevsky's metaphor to symbol. The nameless 
creature, maybe a mole, who makes and inhabits with fear, trem- 
bling, and delight an intricate maze of tunnel and chamber is an 
image of man in our time. Anxious, possibly paranoiac, this creature, 
constructing something more than dark refuge, is craftsman and 
artist too. Hesitations limit his pleasure in what he has made and 
hoarded; and what seemed a Castle Keep ends as place of terror. 
When the whistling beast, whose sharp protrusive snout bores the 
surrounding earth, comes to threaten the security of an autonomous 
system, the solitary mole knows the guilt of accumulation and retreat. 
By his image Kafka may have intended the capitalist, the artist, the 
thinker, the common neurotic or himself, but what he gives us is an 
image that fits those in private worlds. 

The city is a commoner image for our condition or our desire. 


Baudelaire's "Tableaux Parisiens," crowded with desolating partic- 
ulars, gave Eliot the idea of hell as a city much like London, which 
he exploits not only in "Preludes" but in The Waste Land. More lib- 
eral than Eliot, Baudelaire had another kind of city, that of "Reve 
Parisien," a dream of metal, stone, and water without life. Like one 
of those deserted cities of The Arabian Nights, "ce terrible paysage" 
of stairs, arcades, and palaces is an "image vague et lointaine" that 
ravishes him. Baudelaire's city, out of nature and promising the pla- 
cidity of artifice, seems an image of the work of art. Auden's alle- 
gorical city has still another aspect. Occupying the end of the path 
between sensuous sea and abstract desert, the city is the goal of his 
quest or the heart of the adjusted man's reality. Joyce's city, larger 
than these, includes them; and, the scene of almost all his works, it 
becomes symbol as well. Labyrinth and hell at times, his city is also 
the heart of reality as we know from Earwicker's long monologue 
on cities in the fifteenth chapter of Finnegans Waf(e f where allusions 
and puns, calling to mind the cities of the world, enrich the Dublin 
Earwicker founded and built as a home for his lady. In the Viconian 
pattern this chapter concerns the third or human age of man's devel- 
opment. Earwicker's city or man's ripest achievement, good and bad 
alike, is the image of our world. 

Whether traditional, archetypal, or less general than these, images 
are most important when central in a structure that, limiting and 
enhancing them, brings out what might have remained potential. 
In Heart of Darkness and "La Geante" central images are improved 
by supporting structures; but here we may consider others of the 
kind from another point of view. 

\ S. Eliot's song of Harvard is at once simple and exemplary: 

For the hour that is left us, Fair Harvard with thec 
Ere we face the importunate years, 


In thy shadow we wait, while thy presence dispels 

Our vain hesitations and fears. 
And we turn as thy sons ever turn, in the strength 

Of the hopes that thy blessings bestow, 
From the hopes and ambitions that spring at thy feet 

To the thoughts of the past we go. 

In these little-known but extraordinary verses, Harvard is the cen- 
tral image, given solidity, feeling, and tone by a supporting structure 
of abstractions, such as hopes and ambitions, archaic but^everent 
possessives and adverbs (thy and ere), and^a rhythm adequate though 
a little distant perhaps. The "vain hesitations and fears" of the poet 
almost cease under the enormous "shadow" of what is not unlike 
Baudelaire's giantess. Later in life, Eliot was to find substitutes for 
Harvard, a thing greater and older than himself, in other images, 
no less central: tradition, Britain, and the Church. Even under the 
larger shadows of these, however, hesitations and fears continued 
to give substance to his poems; for, as he complains in "The Hollow 
Men," between idea and reality, conception and creation, desire and 
spasm, "Falls the Shadow." But here, "under the shadow of this red 
rock" (a possible reference to Harvard in The Waste Land), the 
tension between circumstantial accompaniment and the great image 
that embodies his needs, providing drama, anticipates his later 
triumphs. Here, in this early poem, he may have said all he had to 
say, but later poems on "thoughts of the past" proved images and 
other rhythms a more suitable setting for the central image. However 
similar in substance and design, the later, more elaborate poems arc 
also closer to the common taste. 

Most people would prefer The Bridge by Hart Crane, a larger but 
less audacious poem that does less well what it seems designed to do, 
Eliot's image of Harvard, surrounded by those improvements, in- 


eludes and presents all the poet meant and something more. Crane's 
Brooklyn Bridge, the central image of his structure, seems at first a 
happy device for uniting its parts; for by nature a bridge unites 
things. According to his letters, which are so good they seem a dissipa- 
tion of creative power, Crane was pleased by the "symbolical possi- 
bilities" of the bridge and by the harmony it could bring to a "sym- 
phonic" arrangement. Effecting "a mystical synthesis" of America's 
past,jpresent,^and future, transfiguring history into "abstract form," 
his jnighty symbol would "condense eternity" and "lend a myth to 
God." His intention, however, was better than his choice of image; 
for a bridge that connects the Navy Yard with the borough of Man- 
hattan may not connect Far Rockaway with the Golden Gate. His 
bridge, moreover, is so alien to Columbus, Pocahontas, and covered 
wagons (though all crossed something) that it fails to embody them, 
and the poem, full of such excellent things, falls apart its center 
will not hold. The moral of that is that images differ in capacity. A 
central image, however exciting in itself, must be chosen for its 
power to function in a structure where it takes back what it gives 
for its own enlargement and the enlargement of what surrounds it. 
Though the "curveship" of Crane's bridge fails in that, the failure is 

The Castle of Kafka's Castle shows what a well-chosen image can 
do. When K. arrives, the Castle on its hill above the village is so 
densely veiled in mist and dusk that he seems staring into emptiness. 
Next morning, however, it appears to be a rambling pile of small 
low buildings, more like a wretched little town than his idea of a 
castle; yet it has a tower, broken at the top and pierced with tiny 
windows that have "a somewhat maniacal glitter." The preposterous 
structure seems oblivious to all below it, and when he looks up later 
on, the contours of the Castle seem to dissolve and "the gaze of the 


observer could not remain concentrated there but slid away." That 
the central image, lacking better description, remains uncertain is 
not without importance; for it owes part of its power to indefinite- 
ness and the rest to relationship with other things. 

Something is added to the image by reports of those who have 
been to the Castle's outer offices and something by hearsay. The 
Castle is occupied by officials in intricate hierarchy. The lower ones, 
who are all we hear of, seem involved with documents so complicated 
and so numerous that files become inadequate, and papers, spilling 
out, are lost. To what end this busy, scrupulous, and apparently in- 
efficient bureaucracy devotes itself is far from plain. "What a strange 
business!" says Olga, whose brother may or may not be a messenger 
for the Castle, "It's almost incomprehensible." Communication be- 
tween Castle and village is difficult. The snow is too deep to permit 
ascent. The telephone emits noises or contradictions ; officials on de- 
scents to the village sleep or play with model railroads; and letters, 
though not to be ignored, cannot be taken literally. It is impossible 
to determine whether K. has been appointed Land Surveyor; a docu- 
ment may have been misplaced or K. may be intruding. We must 
conclude, as he observes, "that everything is very uncertain and in- 

Convinced that acceptance by the village is the way to acceptance 
by the Castle, which seems and is a community, K. pushes and 
debates what others accept, trying by reason to master the irrational. 
The landlady tells him in vain that he has no understanding of Castle 
or village. His efforts and frustrations, however, enhance the central 
image; and so do the characters of all connected with the Castle. The 
two bearded yet childish creatures, sent from above to act as K.'s as- 
sistants, may seem ineffectual or absurd; but who can tell the pur- 
poses of those in the inner offices or, for that matter, the outer ? The 


abominable proposition made to a girl from the village by Sortini, an 
official, proves the Castle not only beyond reason but beyond common 

We share with K. and the family of Barnabas a feeling that im- 
morality, confusion, and nonsense may have a meaning we can never 
fathom. Some critics of Kafka try to make The Castle an allegory of 
this or that, but most, better on the whole than critics of Melville, 
abandon such endeavors. K.'s efforts to join the community and the 
redness of all that tape up there on the hill suggest a social or political 
interpretation; but this surface proves no more than a carrier of 
further meanings. K.'s refusal to wait for grace and Sortini's im- 
moral proposition suggest that Kafka had Kierkegaard in mind 
as we know he had and that the Castle is no more than Kierke- 
gaard's "Absurd" or "Wholly Other." Those who incline to Freud 
as Kafka did may find in ruined tower or all those beards a father 
image. "The Judgment" and what we know of Kafka's relationship 
with his father support this view, but the image of the Castle, al- 
though including these possibilities, is far more general than any 
of them. The great image, not altogether to be grasped, embodies 
total reality: social, psychological, and divine. Man's loneliness, hisj 
aspiration, and his desire to know what he cannot know are present! 
in K.'s troubles. But if The Castle reveals man confronting the uni- 
verse, how does it differ from Moby Dic1(? The difference lies in 
the character of the image and its surroundings. Reality discovered 
by Ahab and a whale is different in feeling and quality from reality 
discovered by K. and a castle; for the nature of reality depends upon 
that of its embodiment. Einstein is said to have found The Castle too 
complicated for him; but he is accustomed to another form for ap- 
prehending what we are faced with. Even for those within our form 
there is choice of images. 


E. M. Forster chose caves as the central image of A Passage to India, 
a great novel that takes its place without embarrassment next to 
Kafka's inconclusive and significantly unconcluded story. Announc- 
ing the image almost in the manner of Joyce, whom Forster detests, 
the first chapter begins "Except for the Marabar Caves . . ." and 
ends with "the Marabar Hills, containing the extraordinary caves." 
Division into three parts, Mosque, Caves, and Temple, places the 
caves as central to a structure of three principal elements; but sub- 
ordinate images, hints, and actions cluster around the center with 
their loads of complication. Everything enters this service: being 
bumped at night on the road by an unidentified beast, Professor God- 
bole's inarticulate song, and the untouchable punkah wallah, who^at 
the trial, ignorantly pulls his cord and agitates the dust, mindless, 
aloof, eternal, reducing Western machinery to nothing. Mysterious, 
tEese parallels to the caves prepare us for their deeper mysteries or 
confirm them. Images of light and dark, sun and moon, join the 
horrid chorus as the Marabar Hills and their hollows creep nearer at 

Of incredible antiquity whether geological or archaeological we 
are never sure those caves, singular yet plural, seem older than time 
itself or spirit. Polished and circular, these enclosures have something 
"unspeakable" about them and bear so little relation to other things 
that the visitor "finds it difficult to discuss the caves, or to keep them 
apart in his mind." Beyond good and evil, they seem at once meaning- 
less and charged with meaning. Their finiteness, denying while im- 
plying infinity, suggests that the abyss itself may be mean and petty 
though none the less abysmal. The worst thing about them, how- 
ever, is an echo that seems to say courage, fidelity, and filth are 
identical, that nothing has value. If one recites a proposition by 


Euclid, an ode to an urn, or some obscenity, the comment of the 
caves, confusing all, is "Bourn." 

Temple, cave, and mosque each presents a universe. Though 
temple and mosque are caves of a sort and related by shape to the 
caves of Marabar, God is there. The universe projected by the mosque 
is formal and limited almost like the world of Englishmen, but 
that of the temple is a "divine mess." Midway between cave and 
mosque, the temple with its "holy bewilderment" symbolizes some- 
thing that is neither the definite meaning of the mosque nor the 
prehuman indifference of the caves. "God si Love" on a placard 
expresses not only confusion but compromise; and the Temple comes 
last to reconcile abysmal cave with tidy mosque. Yet over the horizon 
lies Venice, an image of shapeliness and all its human joys, an image 
perhaps of Forster's own distaste for monstrous or disorderly things. 

Action and character also support the caves. Rising to a melo- 
dramatic climax within them, the action declines from there, reveal- 
ing character, which in turn reveals the caves. When his attention 
is called to them, Ronny, an English official, says : "I know all about 
them, naturally." His ignorance is greater than that of Dr. Aziz, 
the Moslem, who, though thinking the caves a suitable place for a 
picnic, asks: "By the way, what is in these caves? Why are we all 
going to see them ?" Though Dr. Godbole, the Hindu, seems to know 
something about them, he cannot or will not reduce what he knows 
to discourse. Mrs. Moore, canonized by Indians for knowing, knows 
so much about the caves that, finding the universe a horror instead 
of an expression of love as it has seemed in the mosque, she goes 
away to die without telling what she knows of "something very old 
and very small," something before time and space, "incapable of 
generosity." As for Adela, who has her sexual hallucination in the 


caves, she is enabled by them to renounce a "suburban Jehovah" at 
last and to see herself incapable of love. Reborn in the cave, she be- 
comes conscious of what has been her unconscious nature. 

What then, with all this support, do those caves mean ? It is plain 
that they include the primitive, the unconscious, and the sexual. An 
image of India, deeper than mosque, temple or individual Indian, 
except perhaps the punkah wallah, they show why Englishmen once 
found that country disconcerting; for how can the mind take hold of 
a thing so indeterminate? But below these references, the caves 
shadow forth our discouraging universe, all that Hopkins feared as 
"time's vast womb-of-all, home-of-all, hearse-of-all night." A great 
image, like castle or whale, the caves present man's feeling about all 
things. That Forster knew, understood, and admired Moby Dicl( is 
evident from a fine passage on the "inexplicable" whale in Aspects of 
the Novel; but no sooner is a conception of such things "put into 
prose," as he remarks in A Passage to India, than it becomes "untrue." 


The Trotting Mouse 


.CTION reveals as much as image can. Simile: as the Irishman, 
having made his tea, trots a mouse on it to show its density, so the poet 
uses other actions for showing other things. In the last chapter we 
took the "objective correlative" as a definition of image; but as 
Eliot says in the essay on Hamlet, where he announced his cor- 
relative, "a chain of events" may also serve as the "formula" of a 
particular feeling. 

When Aristotle says in the Poetics that plot is the imitation of an 
action, he means by plot the arrangement of incidents, but he does 
not say what action is, or what he said has not survived. To Aristotle's 
distinction between action and plot Francis Fergusson devotes an ap- 
pendix which, however profound, is equally inconclusive; for the 
word action is an "analogue," not to be defined but to invite the 
guesses of readers. Since The Idea of a Theater is a study of action, 
the word recurs, and from Fergusson's usage or his remarks in pass- 
ing we may guess that action, though sometimes what is done, is 
more often the idea of doing manifested in events: u by 'action' I 

do not mean the events of the story but the focus or aim of psychic 
life from which the events, in that situation, result." Distinguishing 
"story" from "plot" in Aspects of the Novel, E. M. Forster finds story 
plot's basis : story, displaying events in sequence, means "and then," 
whereas plot, including causes and effects, means "why." Only a man 
of letters and dealing moreover with a looser art, Forster prudently 
avoids the word action that Fergusson, who owes allegiance not 
only to Aristotle but to Kenneth Burke, philosophically confronts. 

Like everything Burke writes, The Philosophy of Literary Form: 
Studies in Symbolic Action is filled with useful observations and fine 
things. By symbol he seems to mean an equation or a representation ; 
but he is an authority on action. Words like "tactics," "dialectics," 
"drama," and "strategy" abound since poems, as if playing a part on 
'some stage, seem kinetic to him. iAs an action of the body can re- 
veal a man's character, so the poem, a similar action, represents a 
state of mind or "the dancing of an attitude.'} Literature as action, 
a pleasing insight, may alter the critic's approach, but for my pur- 
poses here Burke's idea of symbol is sometimes a little too limited, 
and, since any "overt structure" is an act, his idea of action a little 
too general. At this point, moreover, I want to separate image and 
action, which his philosophy confounds. 

By action I intend nothing so deep as everything but only some- 
thing doing. Dictionaries call action "the process or condition of 
doing," a gesture, a movement of the body, an enterprise, a deed, an 
event or series of events, either actual as in our daily affairs or virtual 
as in literature. Becky Sharp, leaving Miss Pinkerton's academy for 
young ladies, opens the window of her carriage and throws Dr. 
Johnson's Dictionary into the garden. Ahab seeks a whale; Jason 
steals the Golden Fleece; Kafka dreams. These are actions as I take 
the word; for my concern is not with distinctions among story, plot, 


and action but with action, both great and small, as symbol. As for 
movement and action, I wave my hand to a distinction between 
them without making it. 

At first glance, contemporary literature of the more formidable 
sort may seem lacking in action. The reader of Mickey Spillane 
would find nothing doing in the novels of James, Proust, Joyce, or 
Woolf, and if curiosity took him that far, in the poems of Valery 
or Stevens, for, abandoning the habit of Aristotle's poet, poets of our 
day seem to imitate action no more. But that reader, accustomed to 
spectacular actions, might miss those that are there: someone enters 
a room or raises a cup of tea. Such actions, however, acquiring im- 
portance from context, may strike another reader as more impressive 
than the crises, at once overt and intestinal, of a novel by Mickey 
Spillane. We must remember, moreover, that Conrad, Faulkner, 
and Hemingway brought action back with a violence perceptible to 
the most hardened reader, and E. M. Forster always includes one 
great, melodramatic, and revelatory action. Gide's "acte gratuit" is 
more of a problem. When Lafcadio pushes an unknown man from 
the train, is his act not only gratuitous but meaningless or is it a 
revelation? Is meaninglessness its meaning? Except for the last, 
which remains obscure, all these actions may serve as well as image 
to present our inner life or other things. Under action I propose to 
take not only single acts like these but those great chains of events 
found in voyage, dream, and myth. Even some of Jung's archetypes, 
that of rebirth, for example, are active; and when in Freud's un- 
conscious, we climb ladders or fall from them like Finnegan himself. 

Those apparently melodramatic episodes in the novels of E. M. 
Forster should prove good examples of the single act. When the 
kidnaped baby dies in the wreck of a carriage, the surprise for reader 
and characters alike is tremendous. Murder in Florence and even 

Ricky's casual death on the railway lines, shaking things up and 
reordering them, as Lionel Trilling has pointed out, not only focus 
the themes and refract them but by their suddenness reveal a violence 
which, though implicit and growing, had not come to light. Show- 
ing forth this violence and those characters, the incidents release the 
tensions if I may change my metaphor from optics to mechanics. 

Of all these shocking little actions, the death of Leonard Bast is 
worthiest of notice. That outsider, having become an insider in one 
sense at least, is overcome by guilt as he enters Howards End, where 
under blows from the flat of a sword, he clutches a bookcase, pulls 
it down on his head, and dies beneath books. In this accident, which 
discloses the Wilcoxes, of course, and Bast himself, even the slight- 
est details seem important. Why is Bast killed in a Wilcox house by 
Schlegel books and the flat of a Schlegel sword wielded by a Wilcox ? 
Plainly a sword in the hands of a Wilcox represents authority; for 
Wilcoxes are the rulers of England and use the property of others 
for ends whose respectability may require the flat of a sword rather 
than its edge. The books belong to the Schlegels, who represent the 
culture to which Bast aspires, but whether death by books implies 
the peril of an alien culture and Bast's temerity or his final union 
with culture in a moment of triumph is unclear. The house, owned 
by Wilcoxes, adored by Schlegels, and entered by Bast, represents 
the tradition of old England; and the problem of who shall inherit 
it underlies the plot. That it comes to the posthumous son of Bast is 
no less ironic than his death though victory of a sort for a sort of 

We may ask if this action, so rich in detail and plainly significant, 
is more than machinery to advance the plot. In her essay on Forster in 
The Death oj the Moth Virginia Woolf finds the episode of the 
bookcase a true symbol, combining reality and mystery after the 


[manner of Ibsen, but she qualifies her praise. The trouble with 
Forster, she finds, is an intellectual anxiety which, intruding at each 
climax, makes him point the moral too emphatically. It is true that 
most of these climactic episodes seem a little contrived; but although 
they have more significance than mystery, every symbol has some 
significance, and the death of Bast is not altogether unsuggestive. I 
should call it a symbol of the more limited kind, almost totally 
different from the great, unlimited symbol of A Passage to India. 
Having made that after all those experiments with carriages and 
bookcases, Forster, knowing he had done it at last, wisely sat on his 

Ulysses differs from the early work of Forster in being filled with 
trivial events, which resemble his, however, in tempering significance 
with mystery. Of these Mrs. Bloom's getting out of bed and onto 
pot, the only action of the last chapter, is conspicuous. In a context 
at once flowing and static but more static than flowing, Mrs. Bloom's 
indecorous movement is improved by solitude; and in a book so 
inactive on the whole that throwing a biscuit tin becomes gigantic, 
her movement, coming at the end, gains importance from position. 
Held by the indecorum, solitude, and finality of her action, we take 
notice and ask why Joyce put her potting there, what it means, and 
what it does. He put it at the end, I think, to gather, contain, and 
radiate themes and associations already established. 

If water, as Joyce has made plain, suggests life and making it 
suggests creation, Mrs. Bloom on her pot seems the creative imagina- 
tion, Stephen's Muse as well as Bloom's reality. But Mother Grogan's 
"tea and water pot" of the first chapter if we remember it suggests 
something more. This ambiguous utensil connects the water of life 
with tea, which becomes through recurrence and context an image 
of family communion. By the help of Mother Grogan's confusion, 


Mrs. Bloom is also making tea to unite Bloom and Stephen, her 
family, with herself. Becoming splendid now, her act brings other 
things to bear even the arrival that morning of the schooner "Rose- 
vean" from Bridgwater with bricks. Bringing Bloom's nautical sur- 
rogate home, this three-master also includes the other two members 
of Joyce's trinity. "Rosevean," which combines Rose, Eve, and Anne, 
suggests Mrs. Bloom, who bridges water while making it. Bridg- 
water, associated with Stephen in the second and third chapters, 
promises fulfillment to that "disappointed bridge" when he sees the 
ship proceeding up the life-giving river. The bricks carried by this 
ship may be building materials of a future artist and, similar in kind 
to Molly's rock, the substance of her pot. Her rock is Gibraltar, the 
entrance to the Mediterranean or the center of the earth and gateway 
to the fertile East. Calpe, Gibraltar's name in Greek, means urn or, 
more suitably in this context, water pot. 

All this, piddling as it is, makes Joyce's method plain. A multitude 
of definite but unapparent correspondences adds to the meaning of 
each image or act. The astonishing thing about his method, how- 
ever, is that no matter how definite the associations upon which 
image or act depends, no matter how conscious or carefully con- 
trived, the result lacks the effect of contrivance that injures Forster's 
early novels. Mrs. Bloom's action, given meaning by all these as- 
sociations and many more, seems as unpremeditated as a summer 
shower and no less suggestive of life itself. 

Since life is encountered less commonly on portable and compendi- 
3us oceans than all at sea, we favor the voyage for man's adventures in 
reality or his escape from it. Noah was a voyager, and irresponsible 
Jonah enlarged the possibilities of travel. Explorers too, leaving home 
for other reasons, found the seas congenial. Ship and sea allow varieties 
of meaning that tradition has confirmed. The motion and permanence 


af the sea, its depth and vast extent make it an image of refuge, danger, 
mystery, infinity, of all that is alien and welcoming. The sea is our ori- 
gin and our end, and, whether in poem, dream, or myth, voyaging on 
it has always seemed our necessity; for life is a voyage and we em- 
bark in ships of society or self. Nature and tradition alike com- 
mended the voyage to romantics, who, escaping or exploring, were 
never so happy as when at sea whether they took to it to find them- 
selves or, lost in deeper mysteries, the nature of things. Ishmael gives 
all their reasons as he leaves Manhattan for Nantucket, for chowders 
of clam or cod, and for oceans crowded with whales. 

Shelley's Alastor is such a voyager and so is Poe's Arthur Gordon 
Pym of Nantucket, but the Ancient Mariner is more famous than 
either. Coleridge regretted the open "obtrusion of the moral senti- 
ment" in a work of imagination, but Robert Penn Warren has saved 
"The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" from its creator. Far from being 
a moral allegory as the final tag has led many besides Coleridge to 
suppose, his voyage, says Warren, is symbolic. Symbols bring things 
together, and in the great images of albatross, sun, and moon Cole- 
ridge united his ideas of nature, imagination, and morality. Killing 
the bird is a sin against a unity recovered through love. Warren's 
commentary, one of the best on the romantic symbol, leaves little 
more to say about this voyage; and I gladly turn to voyages where I 
feel more at home. Feeling at home on voyages seems less unsuitable 
when we recall that romantics feel most at home away from it. 

A commentary on voyaging, "Le Voyage" by Baudelaire reveals 
the disparity between illusion and reality, imagination and fact, the 
hopes of children "amorous of maps" and the memories of ancients 
coming home. Most of us embark our infinities on the finite sea, 
driven by impatience with shores or by the dangerous perfume of 
some woman, but true voyagers leave for the sake of leaving. What- 


ever the cause of departure, we are alike in our expectations ; for our 
soul, like Joyce's schooner, "est un trois-mats cherchant son Icarie." 
Interviewed on our return, we list islands and idols, though we know 
them now as opium dreams. No matter how far we go, we encounter 
sin, and the world becomes "Une oasis d'horreur dans un desert 
d'ennui." Even such bitter knowledge, however, cannot keep voy- 
agers home: 

Nous voulons, tant ce feu nous brule le cerveau, 
Plonger au fond du gouffre, Enfer ou Cicl, qu'importe? 
Au fond de 1'Inconnu pour trouver du nouveatil 

To discover something new in the gulfs of the unknown became the 
delight of romantic voyagers, and this poem, for all its reservations, 
is their manifesto. 

Plunging into Baudelairian gulfs was the daily occupation of Rim- 
baud, whose "Bateau ivre" ranks among voyages with Moby Dicl(. 
Far less limited than "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," Rimbaud's 
wonderful voyage proves the symbol of voyaging as adequate for 
feelings of expansion and retreat as for moral and philosophical ideas. 
Leaving English cottons to their merchants and Indians to their 
sadistic distractions, Rimbaud floats down his river and out to sea, 
where, lolling in his beautiful vomit, he survives hurricane, calm, 
and reef as he ascends the waterspout or fathoms the whirlpool. 
Waves like "shudders of shutters" roll him to incredible Floridas, 
where he beholds flowers like panther eyes, and to marshes where 
monsters rot among black perfumes. But intolerant of static poles 
and zones, the sea, lifting waves like carnivorous flowers, washes 
him on again through violet fogs, azure snots, and blond-eyed birds. 
That glorious freedom is interrupted, however, by a sudden regret for 
parapets of Europe, and he finds himself ashore at last, a child again, 


his only sea a puddle on the sidewalk in the embalmed twilight. 
Prison hulks are no longer to be ignored by boats as frail as butter- 

It is a voyage to be sure, but what can it mean? Though unas- 
signed, the trip permits several interpretations. It is plainly an equiva- 
lent for transcendental experience. Confusion of surface may serve 
to indicate the derangement of senses that, according to Rimbaud's 
letters, must precede illumination: "j'ai vu quelquefois ce que 
1'homme a cru voir." Knowing Emerson and the rest, we might 
expect that sort of thing, but there are other aspects, equally affirmed 
by images. While presenting delight in expansion, the poem may 
also imply the comfort and guilt of regression; for references to 
mother and infant abound. Childish concern with Cooper's Indians 
and Verne's maelstroms is attended by the presence of mother in 
the "hysterical cow houses" and the "lactescent" depths through 
which drowned men sink. The return to shore in this case would be 
from womb to what Freud calls the reality principle. Not only an 
ambivalent celebration of retreat, the voyage may imply making love 
or imaginative flight, a day dream or the writing of a poem; it may 
mean flight from society and frustrating return. Whatever it im- 
plies and all these possibilities are assured by images it is a form 
for inflation and deflation, the fate, alas, of all romantics. By all its 
conflicts of desire and failure, wish and fear, imagination and fact, 
the poem presents the condition of young men. 

Although Andre Gide's Le Voyage d'Urien (du Rien?), an early 
work in poetic prose, seems indebted to both Baudelaire and Rim- 
baud, it is far more definite than most romantic divagations. With- 
out apparent aim beyond voyaging itself, Urien and his companions 
set out from an exotic port, touch at tropical islands, filled with 
dangerous women to whom several succumb, fret awhile in the 


doldrums, and in the glacial regions of the Pole reach journey's end. 
On a bank of weeds in the Sargasso Sea, Urien discovers Ellis, under 
a cerise umbrella, reading a book on metaphysics; but this young lady 
proves to be a fraud, and it is not until his arrival in the North that 
the authentic Ellis, a kind of Beatrice, appears on a cake of ice. Under 
her direction the voyagers, aware at last of God and of their own 
capacities, attain a more or less tolerable valley and, forgetting volup- 
tuous islands and boring seas, accept things as they are. Plainly an 
allegory of growing up, this voyage is saved from the obviousness to 
which it seems committed not only by bizarre humor, which troubles 
the atmosphere of dream and moral earnestness by equivocal title, 
cerise umbrella, and jesting Envoi, but by the suggestiveness of the 
scenery. Each island, desert, or sea, the embodiment of a condition 
or stage of development, seems an interior landscape or what Gide 
called, in a contemporary note, an equivalent for a state of mind: 
"Emotion and manifestation form an equation; one is the equivalent 
of the other." 

By the time Hart Crane wrote "Voyages," his best poems, he had 
enjoyed Moby Dicl( for the third time ; and Rimbaud, whom Crane 
had read more times than that, seemed the "last great poet." In spite 
of their ecstatic confusion, however, Crane's voyages are different 
in kind from those of Moby Dic\ or "Bateau ivre." It is true that, 
fascinated by water, Crane found it symbolic. Amorous of sailors, 
he walked over Brooklyn Bridge to keep a weather eye on the harbor 
and found himself a room, overlooking it, whence to observe what 
he called "leewardings." The poems in which he celebrated these inter- 
ests, however, are ruminations rather than narratives, and the voy- 
age, central in "Bateau ivre," is reduced to allusion. "Adagios of 
islands," "crocus lustres" of stars, and "poinsettia meadows" of the 
tides, too pretty to suggest Rimbaud, are metaphors. Each poem of 


the overheated suite may embody his love, but voyage and sea seem 
materials for decorators. 

Dylan Thomas's "Ballad of the Long-legged Bait" is another 
thing entirely. "The old ram rod," as he came to call himself, knew 
Melville, of course, and he had read Rimbaud in translation. A hint 
was enough for him, however, and his poem is not only a faithful 
parody of "Bateau ivre" but an original extension with richness and 
glory of its own. As the "fishermanned boat" puts out to sea, the 
skipper's "whale-blue eye" turns from dwindling shore to the busi- 
ness of the voyage. Out comes his rod. His bait, a long-legged girl 
"with his hooks through her lips," swerves and dips in the wake 
among sea horses, rainbow fish, and amorous whales. The hand on 
the rod is firm, but the boat, apparently without rudder or compass, 
is almost as drunken as Rimbaud's. As it plunges from tropic to 
pole, the bait explores the chambers of the deep, embraced by the 
octopus and scuttle-fished by the crab-backed dead. When he winds 
his reel at last, he finds to his dismay that he has a heavy haul of 
countryside and town. His anchor goes down through the floor of 
a church, and, "lost on the land," the fisherman stands at the door 
of his house "with his long-legged heart in his hand." This remark- 
able fishing trip, obscure at first reading, becomes clear enough at 
second or third. As Rimbaud used the voyage to present the feelings 
of romantic youth, so Thomas, like Gide, used it to present the 
passage of man from youth to maturity, or, specifically the details 
and stages of his own adjustment. As Thomas put it one day in a 
bar on West 23d Street (though his intention fails to exhaust the 
meanings he created): a young man goes out to fish for sexual ex- 
perience, but he catches a family, the church, and the village green. 
Indeed, he himself is caught by his bait. The ambiguous tone of the 
last stanza, as the stranded catch stands at his door, expresses wry 


acceptance. Maybe the sea with all its wonders and delights is gone 
and the old ram rod is "dying of women" now, but that fate, less 
desperate than it seems, is not altogether inconvenient. 

W. H. Auden, an authority on literary voyaging, examines it at 
length in The Enchafed Flood. In early times, he says, voyaging, 
though neither voluntary nor pleasant, seemed the death that must 
precede rebirth, but among romantics the voyage answered a variety 
of needs. To some, like Baudelaire, who left for unknown destina- 
tions for the sake of leaving, not city but sea seemed man's condi- 
tion. While some, such as Captain Nemo, found at sea a pleasing 
freedom from responsibility, others, like Melville, found a particu- 
lar voyage an elaborate "synecdoche" for life in general, since going 
to sea permitted exploration of self and the rest of reality. By now 
we should be familiar with these possibilities of voyage as suggestive 
action, but Auden proceeds beyond them to journey and quest. The 
journey on land, adopted by Christians as a way of presenting the 
ups and downs of spiritual life, is found in Pilgrim's Progress and 
many other allegories, though less common than voyaging in recent 
times. Whether to regard Mr. Bloom's wanderings through Dublin 
as journey or voyage is a question one that Auden fails to put and, 
of course, to answer, but he is very good on quests, which may be 
defined as journeys or voyages with a purpose or goal. Ahab's voyage 
is a quest, and so, I suppose, are most voyages, however unaware of 
purpose sailors may be. I hardly know whether to place Dylan 
Thomas, starting out for fish and ending as catch, among questers 
or voyagers; for like most excursions, his is a little mixed. In "K's 
Quest," an essay on the "genre," Auden surveys journeys with salva- 
tion, self-knowledge, or something else as goal. From fairy tales, 
where the third son sets out to do what his elders failed at, and 


quests for the grail, Auden proceeds to the detective story, a quest 
for "innocence," and the novels of Kafka. 

Not content with discourse, Auden illustrates his points in discur- 
sive verses. In "The Quest, a Sonnet Sequence," he devotes twenty 
short poems, most of which are fourteen lines in length, to the neces- 
sity and perils of questing. Compelled by anxiety, the pilgrim sets 
out after some preparation and follows the way until, coming to a 
crossroads, he has to make a moral choice. Some pilgrims have taken 
the left or negative way, but our hero, passing desert, water, tower, 
and city, traps for some, finally arrives at the garden of his desire: 
"All journeys die here." This one was conceived on looking, with 
enormous Alice, through a door into a garden. Necessity and choice, 
predestination and grace, and all the other matters that have haunted 
Auden since he found Kierkegaard's Absurdity congenial, become 
almost as concrete in this allegory as that compulsive image. Many of 
his other verses have quest for theme. "Doom is dark and deeper," 
an early example, concerns a man compelled by Marxist or Freudian 
necessity to leave his home for desolate landscapes and strangers. His 
goal, set before us by Anglo-Saxon attitudes, is return in order to 
reform what he has left. In "The Sea and the Mirror" Prospero 
dreams of "some tremendous journey" through "imaginary land- 
scapes," and waking, finds "this journey really exists" for him and 
all of us. In his monologue, later in the symposium, Caliban elabo- 
rates with more than metaphysical persistence a metaphor of life's 
journey, but, as he says, his "derelict factories," friendly steam rollers, 
alternative routes, and scenery from modern nightmares are "merely 
elements in an allegorical landscape." Those barflies in The Age of 
Anxiety undertake an imaginary journey on their stools. As anxious 
as any of his heroes, Auden is at too much pains to make his points, 


and, despite approximations of surrealism, most of his later work 
lacks magic, which, to be sure, Prospero, his spokesman, abjures. 
Obscurity must not be confused with magic; for Auden's intelligent 
verses are obscure enough. 

For the real thing in recent quests we must turn to novels. To the 
Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf offers the best and least discursive 
kind of questing. Of it, as Mrs. Ramsay says of something else, one 
might say: "Beneath it is all dark, it is all spreading, it is unfathom- 
ably deep." The first sentence of the book proposes an expedition to 
the Lighthouse on its rock in the bay near the Isle of Skye. Mrs. 
Ramsay and her son James want to go, but Mr. Ramsay, supported by 
Tansley, insists that it will rain: "There'll be no landing at the Light- 
house to-morrow." James's disappointment is matched by Mrs. Ram- 
say's annoyance with these rational negations. There is no expedition 
on the morrow; time passes, Mrs. Ramsay dies, and it is only after 
ten years or more that the quest is proposed again, by Mr. Ramsay this 
time, to James and Cam, his children, now reluctant. It is his quest 
now ("He had all the appearance of a leader making ready for an 
expedition") and seemingly his alone: for, as Lily thinks, "There was 
no helping Mr. Ramsay on the journey he was going." Into the boat 
he drives his children and away they sail. He lands, the journey is 
over, but why was it undertaken ? Who are those Ramsays and what 
of the Lighthouse ? 

Of the four important people on this quest (Mrs. Ramsay, Mr. 
Ramsay, James, and Lily Briscoe, a visiting painter), Mrs. Ramsay 
is central, not unlike Mrs. Bloom in function, though different in 
degree. The book is "about life, about death, about Mrs. Ramsay." 
There she sits in her window, like a queen, accepting tributes silently, 
enjoying her triumph. She is "irresistible," thinks Lily : "Always she 
got her own way in the end." This enormous figure, sitting there, 


abundant, beautiful, like a flower, brings pure being to mind. Ig- 
norant, not clever at all, she has the wisdom of Forster's Mrs. Wil- 
cox and Mrs. Moore, who know and are. It is fortunate for all con- 
cerned that, instead of living to eighty-six or ninety as such women 
do, Mrs. Ramsay also dies young in her later fifties. 

When with her, Mr. Bankes, a scientist, feels the ordering of 
chaos he enjoys on solving a problem; but, as Lily observes, Mrs. 
Ramsay "led her victims to the altar," an ambiguous service that 
includes sacrifice as well as matchmaking. Good at bringing people 
together and composing them, she makes of dinner party a co- 
herent thing that shines against black flux outside the windows. Vic- 
torious over that and serving stew, she helps a guest to a "specially 
tender piece of eternity." Indeed, her gift is for arranging times and 
people into approximations of eternity, for "making of the moment 
something permanent," as if to say, "Life, stand still." When she 
has gone, things fall apart again. For all her great accomplishment, 
however, Mrs. Ramsay alive is still unsatisfied; for, though mistress 
of flux, she demands peace and stability beyond her power to create. 
It is for this reason apparently that she looks from her window at 
"that stroke of the Lighthouse, the long steady stroke, the last of the 
three, which was her stroke," and, saying, " 'We are in the hands of 
the Lord/ " becomes one with the light, praising herself in praising 
it; for "she was stern, she was searching, she was beautiful like that 


Poor Mr. Ramsay, at once venerable and pathetic, is so unsure 
of himself that he demands praise and sympathy of his vague and 
necessary wife. When she is occupied with other things or at those 
times she sees through him, he lopes up and down the terrace, facing 
the limitations of intellect, the failure of his books, and other horrors. 
Nevertheless this vain, lovable man gives his wife part of what she 


needs in partial return for her bounty. They illustrate "the inade- 
quacy of human relationships," their "extreme obscurity/' and our 
essential solitude, yet "That is marriage," thinks Lily, observing them 
together: "And suddenly the meaning which, for no reason at all, as 
perhaps they are stepping out of the Tube or ringing a doorbell, de- 
scends on people, making them symbolical, making them repre- 
sentative, came upon them, and made them in the dusk . . . the 
symbols of marriage." As Mrs. Ramsay, apart from him, composes 
flux by humanity, so he composes it by intellect; but no less dissatis- 
fied than she, he needs something more, that a distant goal may 
offer. Lily, who observes the failures and triumphs of these two, 
tries to compose flux in her own fashion, on canvas, in paints, by 
arranging masses. Apparently more nearly final than theirs, her com- 
position requires no Lighthouse to complete it, but as she approaches 
her vision she keeps an eye on that tower and questing Mr. Ramsay, 
whose landing is her moment of approximation. 

The Lighthouse is a suitable goal; for in it each quester can see 
himself and what he wants. An "enormous distance away," it be- 
comes an image of man's remoteness and solitude. Sometimes it is 
lost in haze; at others it seems "a silvery, misty-looking tower with a 
yellow eye that opened suddenly and softly in the evening"; and at 
still others it rises "stark and straight, glaring white and black," a 
bold tower on a bare rock with waves breaking around it. When as 
a child James sat with his mother at the window, the Lighthouse 
seemed misty and attractive; but now, approaching it on Mr. Ram- 
say's expedition, its other aspect is apparent. The solidity, strength, 
and starkness of the Lighthouse confirm some obscure feeling about 
his own character and about external reality, and, looking at the 
tower, he thinks that all things are "like that." This realization, a 
realization of self, marks his sudden maturity. Having hated his 


father and loved his mother in the familiar pattern, he suddenly for- 
gives his father and abandons Mrs. Ramsay's maternal window for 
this father image in the bay. Stable amid the waves, a light in dark- 
ness, bringing order to night and confusion, the tower suggests the 
ideal of Mr. Ramsay, a philosopher seeking the absolute, and that of 
Mrs. Ramsay, composing dinner parties; for the Lighthouse seems all 
that is hostile to flux, whether of wave or time: "In the midst of 
chaos there was shape." That explains the interest of Lily, trying at 
her easel to control the disorder of impression and to place her 
chosen elements. Instead of one tower, then, we have many, and, 
thinking of one or another, James concludes that nothing is "simply 
one thing." 

Since the tower is remote, paternal, and severe, it may also serve as 
an image of any absolute. As we have noticed, the Lighthouse makes 
Mrs. Ramsay think of God. Tansley, who opposes the expedition, is 
an "atheist," and Mr. Ramsay, however desirous of truth, is also 
skeptical. About to land at the Lighthouse, he stands, like a tower 
himself, "very straight and tall, for all the world, James thought, as 
if he were saying, There is no God,' and Cam thought, as if he were 
leaping into space." At that moment on shore, Lily says, "He has 
landed. ... It is finished," while Mr. Carmichaers hand falls as if 
to drop a wreath of asphodels, a gesture that makes Mr. Ramsay's 
landing seem his death not necessarily actual of course. In the boat 
he has been reading and thinking. Maybe at last he has followed 
the letters of his alphabet from frustrating R to final Z, and attaining 
his absolute, leaves time, like a god, for a kind of eternity. Time is 
intolerant of absolutes, and Mrs. Ramsay, a genius in time, finds the 
peace and harmony of her desire in actual death. 

Having also forgiven her father in that boat, Cam sees him no 
longer as tyrant but as hero, "leading them on a great expedition," 


plainly that of life. If the expedition is also the pursuit of one's desire, 
whatever it may be, we must ask why Mrs. Ramsay, who is central, 
fails to go along. Perhaps we are to take Mr. Ramsay as her surrogate 
and Lily's too, as Septimus serves Mrs. Dalloway. Mr. Ramsay's 
success may include all; and that it does so aesthetically if not logi- 
cally is plain from our satisfaction. Or it may be that Mrs. Ramsay, 
almost self-sufficient, has no need of suggestive abstractions, how- 
ever much they fascinate her. In that case her failure to accompany 
the voyagers is the important thing; for inaction may be as revealing 
as action. Such uncertainties should not plague us, who know that 
quest and lighthouse, though surrounded by limiting elements, re- 
tain an indeterminate number of possibilities. A narrow interpreta- 
tion of the quest as a religious allegory, let us say, would be partial, 
serving only to diminish the richness of movement and shape, the 
richness of something, as one of the minor characters says, "as if it 
were Constantinople seen through a mist ... 'Is that Santa Sofia?' 
'Is that the Golden Horn?' " By a happy coincidence Yeats sailed to 
Byzantium, leaving fish, flesh, or fowl for some artifice, that very 

Mr. Ramsay's voyage out is supported by incidental actions, meta- 
phors, and other images. In the boat about to land at the Lighthouse, 
having read and thought awhile, Mr. Ramsay raises his hand myste- 
riously and lets it fall "as if he were conducting some secret sym- 
phony." This revealing gesture remains more mysterious, however, 
than James's dreams of action in that boat: "He had always kept this 
old symbol of taking a knife and striking his father to the heart." 
Having "sought an image to ... detach and round off his feeling 
in a concrete shape," he imagines a great wheel crushing a foot in 
a garden. These Oedipal fancies make James's Lighthouse a hunted 
father and a father found. Less narrowly assigned, repeated analogies 


of waves, fish, birds, and flowers (the "red-hot pokers," for example) 
enlarge the general theme by parallel or other reinforcement. Of 
these images two are conspicuous. The urn of geraniums on the 
terrace, at which the philosopher pauses to knock out his pipe, seems 
to offer life and death; and the austere kitchen table, an image for 
Lily of Mr. Ramsay's abstractions, anticipates the Lighthouse. Such 
objects, as her comment shows, are potential: "to feel simply that's 
a chair, that's a table, and yet at the same time, It's a miracle, it's an 
ecstasy." Lily is always asking what life means. There is no answer, 
but such nondiscursive images and actions are ways of apprehending; 
for, as she says, "how could one express in words these emotions of 
the body?" 

By comparison Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea is simple, but 
this moving story, which a wit dismissed as "a poor-man's Moby 
Dicl(," is not so simple as that. Like Ahab, Hemingway's old man 
puts out to sea in quest of a great animal. There, however, the 
similarity ends; for differences in image, action, and supporting 
devices carry other meanings. The old man goes out so far and gets 
so big a fish that he cannot bring it home, but the great attempt 
brings out his fortitude, endurance, and craft. His bleeding hands 
secure the noble fish; his aching arms refuse to quit a hopeless battle 
with the sharks that leave his catch a skeleton. Shouldering his mast, 
defeated but not disheartened, the fisherman goes home, thinking 
his trouble going out too far; but it was also catching something too 
big. What can that fishing mean ? A critic, seeing the sharks as hostile 
critics, saw the story as an allegory of Hemingway's attempt to write 
a greater book than he was able. It is possible to see that meaning 
in a quest which, however, is far less limited than such an interpreta- 
tion makes it seem. Hemingway's particular action is so suggestive 
and so general (as recurrent analogies of Joe DiMaggio, African 


lions, and Jesus help persuade us) that it fits any of man's great 
endeavors and more dignified defeats, marriage, for instance, or 
thinking things out. 

Faulkner also celebrates man's courage and endurance in As I Lay 
Dying, but, a larger artist than Hemingway and grander in manner, 
he mixes the heroic with the gruesome and the hilarious. A journey 
to bury Ma among her kin in Jefferson provides him with theme, 
structure, and symbol. Although to get her there in spite of smell and 
high water is the common purpose, each of the journeying family has 
a purpose of his own, and each his peculiar difficulties. "It's a trial," 
says Pa, "But I don't begrudge her it"; even farmers along the road 
admit, "He's getting her into the ground the best he can." How- 
ever local the journey of Pa's company and however limited its ob- 
ject, its meanings are general; for their journey is that of life, their 
goal a grave. Rising from her coffin, Ma speaks of "significant shape," 
words that together with "myriad," Faulkner's favorite, describe the 
journey and its meanings. That Ma in her coffin seems either a fish 
or a horse adds suitable mystery to a familiar shape. 

Hunt for bear in deep woods is the expressive pattern of "The 
Bear," another of Faulkner's quests and one of the more curious. 
The first part of this three-part story may seem, like The Old Man 
and the Sea, another but landlocked variety of the hunt for Moby 
Dick; the second and third parts, inconsistent in method with the 
first, may seem discursive and eagerly moral; but first impressions 
of Faulkner are inadequate. Let us look again at the opening narra- 
tive on which the sections of commentary are based. Around 1880, 
the great forest near Jefferson is still primeval, though crossed by a 
small railroad and menaced at one edge by a sawmill; and in this 
forest lives a bear like a "locomotive" or a "thunderclap," who seems 
like Blake's Tiger the forest's concentrate. To hunt the enormous 

beast is vain, but the sportsmen at the hunting lodge never stop 
trying. Ike, the boy, is inducted into forest lore by a half-breed that 
he may be worthy of the great pursuit. Monomaniacal perhaps, this 
boy is no Ahab, nor is he intended to be; for when worthy at last, 
he becomes an observer and leaves the killing of the bear to dog and 
half-breed. Taken by themselves the images of forest and bear and 
the action of hunters and hunted provoke thoughts and feelings 
about man's conquest of nature and, beyond these literal matters, 
man's pursuit of any large enterprise. That the hunting boy, whose 
preparation for life is one of the central themes, becomes an observer, 
leaving the hunt to a dog (as if Ahab had delegated his to a shark), 
is a significant departure from the expected, and so are the funeral 
rites over dog, bear, and half-breed that follow a now ambiguous 
victory. Maybe there are several ways of looking at that hunt. 

The boy is at pains to point one of them out. Contemplating the 
ruin left by the once negligible railroad and sawmill and the en- 
croachment of cotton fields, with their odor of slavery, he regrets 
his "ravaged patrimony, the dark and ravaged fatherland." Forest 
and bear, his teachers, become the symbols of what he has learned 
and lost, symbols too of the heart of America. The land, he con- 
cludes, is not ours to buy and sell but a trust now violated. This 
discourse, which follows the story of the bear and returns to it now 
and again for strength, seems at first to diminish it by social, eco- 
nomic, and moral applications. Faulkner himself is moved by guilt 
and concern to intrude, as he does in Intruder in the Dust, with dis- 
course that may seem to impair or, at least, to limit, what he has 
created by action and image. Though he shares the boy's ideas about 
the land, it is the boy in this case who expresses them. His response 
to experience is a legitimate part of the drama, and his interpretation 
need not fix our own, but, working with it, may enlarge it a little; 


for, working with symbol, discourse may create an effect beyond that 
D either, and, becoming part of the action, may add something to 
the whole with which we are confronted. The improvement of bear 
by hero's discourse is a larger and more suggestive thing than bear 

Quest, unaffected by discourse, is one of the elements of Light in 
August, which begins and ends with the image of the road and Lena 
going along it. Though hunting on the first road, she is too nearly 
:entral to persist in that, and on the last is only traveling. But Christ- 
mas, whose hunt for self is presented by images of street and corridor, 
is a quester to the end. The book is filled with suggestive action 
(murder, arson, lynching), but what most impresses me is an action 
in the past. Hightower's obsession with his grandfather's raid upon 
Grant's stores in Jefferson may have been no more in fact than raid- 
ing a henhouse but, improved by long remembrance, becomes the 
symbol of glory and loss for him and serves us as an embodiment of 
'he South and its fixation. In his pulpit, where the memory moves 
him most, "it was as if he couldn't get religion and that galloping 
:avalry and his dead grandfather shot from the galloping horse un- 
tangled from each other." Old men and women of the congregation 
iid not like his "using religion as though it were a dream. Not night- 
mare, but something which went faster than the words in the Book." 

Dream, whether fast or slow, is an action of images. That struc- 
tures of this kind are symbols composed of symbols has been agreed 
From earliest times. The Old Testament is filled not only with 
dreams but with interpretations by amateur and expert. In the age 
3f reason, to be sure, they thought dreams silly and unworthy of 
notice; but after science led men away from reason, along came 
Freud to support old agreement by system. Men of letters, always 
solicitous of dreams, had used them as motive or frame. Christian's 


progress from here to the holy city, for example, is undertaken "under 
the similitude of a dream." With the romantic movement such 
similitudes became at once more authentic in appearance and less 
definite. The dream of Anna Karenina, seeming an actual dream, 
contains and presents her desperate situation. The dreams of Svidri- 
gailov in Crime and Punishment, even more terrible, reveal his 
deepest conflicts and those of Raskolnikov as well. That symbolist 
writers since Freud have found dreams congenial is not surprising. 
It is my purpose here to consider their use of dream, first as an ele- 
ment in a larger structure, and second as the structure itself, a field 
so large that choice is forced upon me. 

If we did not know the effect of Freud on literature, we could 
deduce it from To the Lighthouse and the works of Kafka. That 
what Freud pointed out was there before his time is plain from 
"Bateau ivre" and The Wanderings of Oisin. Since literature seems to 
illustrate Freud's principles, we might profitably recall that he found 
it equivalent to dream or, at least, to daydream, which has the same 
machinery. His dreams, as everybody knows, are designed to carry 
and hide unconscious motives, preferably bad. To reveal and conceal, 
not only the function of Carlyle's transcendental symbol, is also that 
of Freud's libidinous dream, which exploits the irrational, primitive, 
and childish parts of our personality. The latent or real content of a 
dream is what we have repressed, and its manifest content or what 
we remember is the latent in disguise. To prevent our knowing what 
we are, the censor uses symbols, which by a kind of compromise 
satisfy the demands of social ego and disreputable id. Since the 
symbols of dream are parallel to neurotic symptoms, a neurotic 
washing hands or walking the white line down the middle of a street 
is not altogether unlike the dreamer or the man of letters. 

Dream-work or the making of symbols involves displacement, con- 


densation, and secondary elaboration. The last and simplest of these 
is giving an air of coherence to latent disorder. Displacement or 
disguising important matters by making them seem peripheral is 
closer to our concerns as the death of Mrs. Ramsay in a parenthesis 
makes plain. But what should move us most is condensation, which 
seems the process of all symbolism, even the more nearly conscious 
varieties. Taking elements commended to his notice by some simi- 
larity of function or feeling, the dream-worker combines them in 
one image or act. This rich composite of meanings, though de- 
signed to conceal them, invites attention by its brilliance. If symbol 
implies putting together, Freud's account of this unconscious work 
may shed light on the origins, process, and nature of literary sym- 
bolism, without, however, explaining it away; for origins do not 
determine things entirely, nor is likeness identity. However anal- 
ogous to dream symbol, the literary symbol is not dream but art or 
an element in a work of art. Belonging as much to the external world 
as to the internal, the literary symbol, mediating between them, fol- 
lows not only the demands of the unconscious but social and aes- 
thetic necessity. 

The symbols of Freud's dreamer and those of Kafka or Baudelaire 
invite analysis, but the analysis appropriate to one is not necessarily 
appropriate to the other. In The Interpretation of Dreams Freud 
spreads his cases before us. Addressing himself to examples of dream, 
which are somehow analogous to literary texts, he resembles Wilbur 
Marshall Urban and the "ontological" critics in assuming that all 
can be explained, but like an old scholar among books he also goes 
outside the text before him to consult the dreamer's life and habits. 
Following one method or the other, he pursues puns, verbal echoes, 
associations, events of the day before, memories of a remoter past; 
finds parallels in myth and fairy tale; and ends at last in those child- 


ish enormities where all dreams start. He takes the "universal" sym- 
bols of ladder and tower into account, but most of his analysis con- 
cerns "accidental" images or actions peculiar to the circumstances 
of the dreamer. After this ingenious exercise, he announces: "The 
meaning of the dream immediately becomes clear to me," but that 
his analysis fails to exhaust it is apparent from a reexamination of 
one of Freud's own dreams by Erich Fromm in The Forgotten Lan- 
guage, an excellent account of dream and myth. The later analyst, 
who liberally departs from Freud's dogma now and again, finds 
that the machinery of repression celebrated by Freud kept the master 
from interpreting the dessicated flowers, an image of his dream, that 
might have revealed an unnatural reduction of love to science. 

The dreamer and his problems are beyond the critic of literature; 
for he lacks a couch, and, unable to rely on the writer's conscious 
statements, has to confine himself to text alone or what he may dis- 
cover by accident or circumstance. The literary symbol, like a dream 
before Freud has got around to it, remains mysterious and I like 
it so, preferring dreams before an analysis that turns image and 
action to sign and discourse. Freud's value to men of letters is call- 
ing attention to dreams and showing their symbolic possibility, but 
critics of symbolist literature had better let his kind of analysis alone. 
My purpose is not to discover Freud in literature or to examine it 
by his light, but, as I have said before, only to consider what he con- 
firmed : the use of dream as symbol. 

Fascinated with dream and vision, pre-Freudian Yeats used what 
he got from them for poems. Images and actions from Henry More's 
Anima Mundi opened up more than intellect could; for the mem- 
ory of nature, having stored all that man had thought or felt, re- 
turned it in our sleep. Yeats was as pleased by the intensity of images 
from this great receptacle as by what his occult studies told him of 


their import. In later life, however, though still persuaded that the 
materials of dream "are forms existing in Anima Mundi" and mir- 
rored in our minds, which created them, he allowed that the great 
memory and "what we have begun to call the subconscious" are one. 
Maybe from the self, the revelation of dreams is from an "age-old 
memoried self," call it what you will. "All art is dream," he said in 
a later essay, and in a play he said : "A dream is body." 

Since embodiment was his aesthetic principle, some of his poems 
faithfully embody dream, "The Cap and Bells," for example, in 
Wind Among the Reeds. This "beautiful and coherent" dream, he 
says, has always meant a great deal to him, but "as is the way with 
symbolical poems, it has not always meant quite the same thing." 
For Freudians, if not for Yeats, the meaning of his dream-poem is 
almost painfully apparent. The pity, however, is that for them his 
garden, window, queen, and the jester's gift of cap and bells, losing 
mystery and variety, diminished and denuded now, mean one thing 
alone. To be ignorant of Freud seems better for those who prefer 
poems to ideas, and, content, like Yeats, with the manifest structure, 
can let the latent tease. 

Fascinated in his turn by the dreamy poems of Wind Among the 
Reeds, Joyce used dream as symbol in A Portrait of the Artist. Of 
the many dreams and waking visions in this novel, three stand out, 
that of dead Parnell near the beginning, that of a wasteland of goats 
and cans in the middle, and that of a cave of fabulous kings and little 
people at the end. Functional in the pattern of country, religion, and 
family, these three dreams are what Stephen calls "epiphany"; and 
though Joyce differed from Yeats in knowing what his visions were 
about, his knowledge does not limit their suggestiveness or our pleas- 
ure. In Ulysses Stephen, Bloom, and Haines have prophetic dreams, 
of the sort which, in spite of Freud, Fromm allows. The dream 


shared by Bloom and Stephen predicts their relationship with Mrs. 
Bloom as we shall see. Haines's dream of the black panther, some- 
what more obscure, is a vision of Bloom, who, dressed in black, is to 
walk from the library with "step of a pard." Since, as A. M. Klein 
has pointed out, Haines means hate and the panther is a traditional 
image of Christ, it becomes plain, if we carry these observations a 
little farther, that Haines's dream is the earliest adumbration of 
Christ-Bloom, whose daydreams of the Orient, hateful to devils, 
present the fertility he is to restore. Hallucinations in the Circe 
episode, not to be taken literally, are symbols of Bloom's deepest 
being, which, had he lived near an anthill, might have commended 
him to Dr. Harcourt-Reilly at some party. 

A dream in Mrs. Dalloway, which takes method from Joyce, de- 
parts from his pattern, to the ghostly applause of Sir Thomas Browne 
and other "oneirocritical masters." Having seen the great lady, Peter 
Walsh falls asleep on a bench in Regent's Park. He dreams of Mrs. 
Dalloway, we learn, but his dream, presented indirectly, takes the 
form of an extended simile. Whatever it may have been in detail, 
his experience is as if a solitary traveler in a forest should approach 
a great female figure at the end of an avenue. Like Baudelaire's 
giantess, Jung's anima, or Robert Graves's matriarchal "White God- 
dess," this figure is a little overwhelming. "The death of the soul," 
cries Peter as he awakes. If dream is analogy for something latent, 
what Virginia Woolf has done is to give us a general analogy for a 
particular one. Suggesting at once the feeling of his dream and its 
interpretation, her simile helps us to apprehend both Peter and his 

Of dreams as elements in novels, the richest and most rewarding, 
with the possible exception of Joyce's Circe, is Hans Castorp's vision 
in the snow, at once the center, summary, and climax of The Magic 


Mountain. Hans leaves the Berghof on skis for a lonely adventure 
among snowy mountains. Lost and facing death, he has the dream 
that, presenting and solving his problems, completes his develop- 
ment. To understand his experience we must review time, circum- 
stance, and previous action. 

The sanitarium among its mountains is far from the flat lands and 
their realities. It may be a question for professional thinkers, as Mann 
says, "whether the hermetically sealed conserve upon its shelf is out- 
side of time," but the sanitarium, a jar of this kind, is certainly out- 
side it, though it preserves the familiar materials of time and space. 
Sealing himself from reality, our "simple hero" faces it as never be- 
fore; for, concentrated now, it is isolated for examination. What is 
more, mountains, however remote, afford a view. 

"Hermetic," the most important word of the novel, means not 
only sealing up but alchemical transmutation as well. Since, as Mann 
tells us, his novel is a ' ' Bildungsroman" or the story of a young man's 
development from bourgeois simplicity to maturity, Hermetic 
plainly refers to the change he undergoes. "You, of course, do not 
know," says Hans to Clavdia, "that there is such a thing as alchemis- 
tic-hermetic . . . transubstantiation, from lower to higher, ascend- 
ing degrees, if you understand what I mean." Not only transmuta- 
tion but ascent along the ladder of being with which we are ac- 
quainted seems involved in this condescending announcement. Later, 
Mann refers to Hans's "hermetic career," and observes at the very 
end, as his hero lies in the mud, that his story is "neither short nor 
long, but hermetic." The Berghof is a "magic mountain" because 
Hermes-Thoth, the god of magic, presides over Hans's "hermetic 

Like some base element in its alembic, Hans is transmuted by sev- 
eral agents, chief of which are three people: Naphta, Settembrini, 


and Clavdia Chauchat. The Jesuit and the humanist, endlessly debat- 
ing, show the possibilities of reason and its ends; but while those 
philosophers talk, Clavdia shows herself. Her eyes, her X-ray picture, 
and her embodiment of disease and love lead Hans to regions where 
her pencil becomes a significant image and her habit of slamming 
doors a significant action. Shaped by these three and by what they 
suggest of body, reason, and music, Hans is ready for adventure in 
the snow. 

A quest with no known goal but maybe with the secret hope of 
one, exploring the snowy back premises of the Berghof becomes a 
symbol of inner exploration, a part of what Hans calls "taking 
stock." Out he goes into the blind, white, whirling nothingness, 
which, at once transcendent and deathly, is like the sea and the 
sands of the shore. As equivocal as the sea and as monstrous, snow 
implies both life and death, but death predominates; for snow, com- 
posed of geometric crystals, is so antiorganic that "the living princi- 
ple shuddered at this perfect precision." Facing alien indifference, 
"a fitting theatre for the issue of his involved thoughts," Hans has 
his vision. He sees a Mediterranean shore of "spacious sunny bliss" 
where beautiful people pass the hours in pastoral pursuits. His heart 
goes out to them ; but at their back is a temple where hags, dismem- 
bering children, feed. Awaking with rapture and horror from this 
dream of love and blood sacrifice, Hans finds the storm over, the sun 
out, and an open slope before him. 

If a symbol is a form that puts things together, this vision in the 
snow is a good example. Presenting all the scattered things that 
Hans has learned from his teachers, his dream reconciles them at 
last and provides knowledge beyond the capacity of his waking mind 
as if to justify Erich Fromm in his idea of dream as insight. Be- 
fore Hans starts down that significant slope to the Berghof, he 


draws conclusions "in utter clearness" from his enlargement: "I 
have dreamed it out to the end," he thinks. "I have come to my goal." 
Death, life, disease, and love, which used to quarrel in his mind, are 
aspects now of a great harmony. 

His commentary, though seeming to weaken the symbol he or the 
general soul created, belongs to a larger structure. Whatever that 
dream may be to us, it is first of all an expressive thing for Hans 
and his reaction to it is part of the drama. His commentary rather 
than the symbolic action it concerns marks the climax of his develop- 
ment. If climax, however, why does it come so far from the end of 
the story? There are several reasons for that. As Mann ironically 
points out, Hans forgets most of his insight on his return to the 
sanitarium. Peeperkorn, who renews the vision by another embodi- 
ment, is still to come. The theme, moreover, is not only the develop- 
ment of Hans but the decline of Europe, which he must share. War 
and the duel between Settembrini and Naphta, though implicit in 
the vision, must unfold. 

That much for work including dream; but sometimes dream, in- 
cluding work, is equal to it. For work as dream I could take Finnc- 
gans Wakf, but, having mentioned it elsewhere, prefer something 
less familiar and less obvious. There is Alice in Wonderland, of 
course, and there are stories of Llareggub, a backward land that 
Dylan Thomas roamed in sleep. I shall take The Trial by Franz 

Action and atmosphere, image and situation establish this book as 
dream. K.'s mysterious arrest is no more than we expect by night, 
and his execution by tall-hatted officers, while the figure at the win- 
dow pities or invites, seems all nightmares' end. Between these ex- 
tremes we visit buildings only sleepers know up narrow stairs, down 
tenement corridors, through kitchen or bedroom we pass to court- 


rooms with balconies so low that occupants must bend their heads. 
This maze of oppression and enclosure acquires additional strange- 
ness from the bourgeois reality around it and the rational tone of the 
dreamer. Never was dream more manifest or suggestive of something 
latent, but the nature of that is the question. 

Taking it literally, Marxists have found Kafka's dream a sign of 
bourgeois decadence and incipient fascism. Surely, however, those 
courts, however complicated and incompetent, are no more like our 
directorate of income taxes, shall we say, than like what we know 
of Soviet Russia. Moreover, since the manifest content of a dream is 
never its meaning, we must look below the surface to find what it 
implies. Maybe the legal complication disguises and dimly reveals 
the problem of Law and Grace or a Kierkegaardian drama as most 
commentators, including Max Brod, think. Psychologists, on the 
other hand, think the dream an adumbration of man's deepest mo- 
tives, and there is much to support their view. Consider those bearded 
men with badges whom K. encounters in the lowest court, and the 
man who carries the janitor's wife up the stairs, certainly father 
images from Freud. Erich Fromm, whose analysis of The Tried is 
most fascinating of all, finds "arrested," the verb in the opening 
sentence, equivocal, meaning not only seizure by police but psychic 
frustration. Carrying on from there, Fromm finds K.'s refusal to 
admit his guilt or to discover his crime and his reliance on others 
for help the signs of a maladjusted personality. Whether social, re- 
ligious, or psychological, these interpretations are more or less justi- 
fied by manifest absurdities; but each is partial. 

Kafka implies as much by the parable repeated to K. in the dark 
cathedral. From a pulpit with canopy too low for comfort, the Priest 
tells K. of the man who, denied admittance at the gate, waits there 
all his life and finds at its end that the gate was for him alone. This 


discouraging story is unalterable, says the Priest, but interpretations 
differ. As the story seems an epitome of the book, these interpreta- 
tions, various yet incomplete, seem the attempts of critics. K. is no 
wiser as he gropes his way in the dark from that cathedral nor are 
we after reading essays on Kafka. The Tried, of course, is a shape for 
the feeling we have when facing what surrounds us, whatever it 
may be. Some of us feel guilty nowadays or, denying our guilt, feel 
anxious at least, and the rooms and corridors we grope through for 
relief are so perplexing we despair of it. 

Enough of that. Myth to Freud seemed same as dream, except more 
public. As a disciple put it: dream is myth of an individual and myth 
a dream of the race, but Bronislaw Malinowski disagreed. In Myth 
in Primitive Psychology, he holds a Viennese parlor no place to study 
myth; for myth is alien to the bourgeois mind. To confine one's 
study, moreover, to classical myths, as Freud commonly did, is not 
only to take the divagations of scribes for the real thing but also to 
take text without context. The place to study myth is on some island 
where myth makers are busy, chanting their compositions at dances 
or around the fire while a fitting audience, entranced, sucks marrow 
bones, preferably human. So studied, myth proves to be a cultural 
device of great practical importance. A narrative of primeval reality, 
it confirms and strengthens tradition by precedent, supplies a retro- 
spective pattern of moral values, and, while supporting magic and 
ritual, confers order and unity upon the tribe. This satisfaction of 
needs and justification of custom has nothing to do with symbolism. 
A myth of the South Seas may have caves and snakes, but lacking 
Freud's middle-class Western unconscious and its symbols, the maker 
of myths means caves and snakes by caves and snakes, and that is 
their only meaning. Discouraged symbolists may recall that other 
authorities, no less great, find myth symbolic. 


Without denying its cultural importance, Ernst Cassirer in Lan- 
guage and Myth finds myth a symbolic form which like language, re- 
ligion, science, or art creates a world and a way of seeing it. As re- 
mote as possible from the mode of discursive logic with its distinc- 
tions, myth concentrates experience by analogy; for, like language, 
myth has its roots in metaphorical thinking. Among primitive peo- 
ple, myth is a way of making the moment permanent, of celebrating 
its mystery and power, and of releasing conflicts by objectifying them. 
Among modern people, where myth survives as an imaginative de- 
vice, useful for poets, it becomes a form of self-revelation. In his 
Essay on Man Cassirer sees myth, now freed from primitive beliefs, 
as symbolic action. 

Both myth and dream, says Erich Fromm in The Forgotten Lan- 
guage, "are important communications from ourselves to ourselves." 
The "symbolic language" by which myth and dream are presented 
is one "in which inner experiences, feelings and thoughts are ex- 
pressed as if they were . . . events in the outer world." It is a pity 
that Fromm's example of an outer event is Jonah in the whale; but 
we guess what he means. That the experience so symbolized is in- 
determinate is plain from his interpretation of Oedipus. Whereas 
to Freud this myth meant "nothing more" than the fulfillment of 
infant wishes, it seems to Fromm a conflict of loyalties to matriarch 
and patriarch. Accustomed, however, to disagreements over mean- 
ing, we welcome an agreement on myth as symbol, which, after all, 
is what we are after. Let us ignore the South Seas and, accepting 
myth around here as symbolic narrative, proceed to peculiarity and 

I see no great differences among voyage, dream, and myth, the 
principal actions of this chapter. Voyages need not be myths, to be 
sure, but those of Odysseus, Jason, Jonah, and Noah are commonly 


held to be. If, combining the definitions of Malinowski and Cassirer, 
we find that myths involve religion and society, so, we must agree, 
do the voyages of Ahab, the Ancient Mariner, and that sailor in 
the drunken boat. There may be differences, however, in acceptance. 
Whereas the ancient voyages, approved and repeated by the com- 
munity, became traditional as well as expressive, recent voyages are 
more or less private. Myth and dream present man's central prob- 
lems, but the dream, however general its images, concerns problems 
of the individual, whereas myth finds those of the community im- 
portant. Both, on the other hand, involve the individual's relationship 
with men and things around him. If differences between modern 
dream and ancient myth or between this voyage and that may be 
traced to cultures, Odysseus differs from Ahab as Homer's time and 
place from ours. 

For the function of myth in the primitive community we may 
stray to philosopher or anthropologist. Our concern, however, is 
with myth in recent times. With ritual it may serve to support be- 
lief, but even for those without it, myth retains something of its old 
potency. Serving the individual as it once served the group, myth 
may unite him with tradition or society, and, in literature, while 
uniting the conscious mind with the primitive or the unconscious, 
myth may express the inner by the outer, the present by the past. 
Of myths in literature today there are two kinds: old ones revived 
and modern approximations. Ignoring the latter here, since I have 
approached it elsewhere, I shall content myself with ancient myths 
as modern symbols. Patina and temporal dimension give them some 
advantage over other symbolic actions. 

Th6s6c, one of the last works of Andr Gide, is old myth with 
modern improvements. By his own account, Gide's Theseus is no 
less unscrupulous than responsible. Uncanonical conversations with 


Daedalus, Pasiphae, and Oedipus prove his shrewdness; and the 
business of black sails, the affair with Phaedra, and the marooning 
of Ariadne his indifference to common morality. Yet he did much 
for mankind: after killing monsters of all varieties, he founded a 
city and established law. "For the good of future humanity," he says 
at the end, "I have done my job. I have lived." We do not need the 
assurance of Daedalus that hero becomes symbol, but what Gide's 
Theseus and his adventures symbolize is a question to which, al- 
though no authority on Gide, I hazard an answer. It seems to me that 
in embellishing this myth and making of it something gay and 
malign, he saw it as his own career. Retelling ancient story, he pre- 
sented in less discursive form than his autobiography allowed an 
estimate of self, a testament, and the justification of his work. 

Le Traite du Narcisse (theorie du symbole), one of Gide's earliest 
works and one composed under the spell of Mallarme, is dedicated to 
Valery. Nevertheless, this commentary on symbolism, disguised as 
an improvement on ancient myth, is closer to Plato and Carlyle than 
to Mallarme at his most transcendental. Having become Gide or any 
poet, Narcissus, satisfied no longer with his image in the flux, tries 
to attain the static, crystalline paradise beyond appearances; but 
flowing, manifested things and reflections of himself keep him from 
a reality he can approach through art alone. Appearances are sym- 
bols, revealing Platonic ideas, which are more important than the 
things that manifest them; and the object of the symbolist is the 
crystalline idea that his symbol represents. The approximate paradise 
of art shows "all forms in a reciprocal and symmetrical interde- 
pendence," like that of Eden before Adam's curse; and like Eden, 
this aesthetic paradise is free from time. Although the image of a 
timeless heaven anticipates Yeats's Byzantium and the image of 
crystal, a precipitated, many-sided, transparent form, anticipates 


Wallace Stevens's crystal, Gide's aesthetic, centered in a transfigured 
Narcissus, seems too otherworldly to satisfy later poets, who found 
embodiment of greater value than idea; and the true Narcissus, as 
Gide's later works prove, stares at an image in the pool. 

Public myth for private use is not at all uncommon in our time. 
Finding the story of Jesus congenial, D. H. Lawrence improved it, 
much as Gide improved his myths, to fit his own situation and de- 
sire. The hero of The Man Who Died, a disillusioned savior, rises 
from the tomb, and, disgusted with humanity and his mission, re- 
solves to preach no more, but a cock and the sun, both of which arise 
in the morning to challenge death, make him see possibilities in resur- 
rection. So inspired, he begins to adore the life of the body and some 
unspecified life beyond it. Maybe, he thinks, a woman can help. A 
priestess of Isis is convenient, and she, finding him not unlike Sir 
James Frazer's dismembered Osiris, invites him into her flowerlike 
temple, where rituals and "female mysteries" engage him until, "I 
am risen," he ambiguously declares. Though forced to flee the dis- 
pleasure of slaves and common people, he will come again, he prom- 
ises, like Spring itself. This instructive but unorthodox mixture of 
two myths served to celebrate Lawrence's own discouragement and 
hope. Maybe Freud was right about myth as wish-fulfillment, but 
that Viennese, however poetic he may have been, had no way of 
commending the art that makes The Man Who Died one of the most 
moving of Lawrence's stories. 

Myth allowed these vain men not only to exploit their parts but 
to exhibit them; for familiar myth, like traditional image, can be 
understood or almost. Unfamiliar myths, however, or myths of 
any sort employed by those who laid themselves less bare or else by 
those who moderated the pleasures of exposure by subtlety, lack 
this virtue. For these writers and their readers myth, unbuttoning no 


buttons, remains as indeterminate as most symbols. Yeats's addic- 
tion to myths both local and obscure is a case in point. 

"There is for every man," says Yeats in his essay on Shelley, "some 
one scene, some one adventure . . . that is the image of his secret 
life." That Cuchulain and his deeds served Yeats in that capacity is 
plain. Acquiring more than Irish significance by the aid of a mask, 
Cuchulain, he thought, could become "an image seen in reverie by 
some Orphic worshipper," and we may be sure that Yeats thought 
himself that. Treating his Cuchulain almost as liberally as Lawrence 
his Jesus, Yeats dedicated work after work to the image and actions 
that obsessed him. In The Only Jealousy of Emer, a poetic play in 
the Japanese manner he had learned of Ezra Pound, Cuchulain is dis- 
closed, supine. Washed ashore after fighting the waves, and water- 
logged now, he is nevertheless the object of three contending women. 
Emer's sacrifice saves him from Fand, the lady from the sea, but 
leaves him to Eithne, his latest mistress. Far from being a savior, the 
defeated hero is saved by another's heroism. 

That Yeats saw himself in this symbolic inaction is likely enough 
and that, just married and "coming home to a mortal woman" after 
"loving an immortal goddess," as Cuchulain had done, he saw some- 
thing of his wife in noble Emer is even likelier; but the personal 
bearing of the play is unimportant. We know that Yeats's theater 
was designed to restore heroic ideals to Ireland. Patriotism may have 
helped to shape Emer's fine renunciation and Cuchulain's plight; 
but these are local matters, and to please us, unless Irishmen or 
scholars, the import of the play must be more general. A prose 
version called Fighting the Waves and an essay explaining it confirm 
what action, image, and context suggest and direct our notice to 
what we might have missed in the labyrinths of Yeats's verse. The 
essay makes it apparent that the waves, the central image, suggest 


all that is inimical to mankind and that Emer's action, more effectual 
than Cuchulain's fight, is man's victory over flux, regression, and 
machine. Liquid or aquatic now, modern man, says Yeats, has 
abandoned limit, line, and principle for a deluge of experience, the 
dangers of which have been affirmed by "a German psycho-analyst" 
who "has traced the 'mother complex' back to our mother the sea." 
Going back to the play with this help, we can see it now as a human- 
ist's defiance of romantic flux. As for the machine, which is equally 
dangerous, it seems suggested by Fand's metallic costume and the 
nature of her dance on coming from the sea. The prose version relies 
less on "elaborate words" than on music, dance, and gesture, such 
movements as lighting imaginary fires on symbolic action in short 
to create this complex of feeling and idea. 

What an audience without help of preface made of Emer's action 
is more than I can say. Sharing my doubts about the adequacy of his 
form, Yeats stepped before the curtain to make a speech whenever 
he had the chance. In // Isn't This Time of Year at All! Oliver 
Gogarty reports one that preceded a performance of At the HawJ(s 
Well, a similar play, in Gogarty 's drawing room: "'Perhaps I had 
better adumbrate the suggestions not their significance, for that 
would be to limit them. ... I know you would not have me be 
explicit.' " After limiting actions and images a little, Yeats con- 
tinued : " 'I have found a form that does its work by suggestion, by 
complexity of rhythm, color, gesture, symbol, not by direct state- 
ment!' " That he said something of the sort is affirmed by "Certain 
Noble Plays of Japan," an essay on his kind of play: "I have invented 
a form of drama, distinguished, indirect, and symbolic." Leaving 
realism to common people, he offers expressions of the body and 
"distance" to aristocrats who, in those drawing rooms, enjoyed a 
doubtful experience. 


Our specimens so far have been of ancient myths retold and 
changed in the retelling for modern purposes, but myth as parallel 
to a modern story is more common. Dylan Thomas's "Altarwise by 
owl-light," a sequence of ten dazzling sonnets, is a good example 
of this. After recovering a little from our amazement, we notice that 
the octaves follow the sestets and ask the reason of this backwardness 
a clue perhaps to a further inversion, that of method. Although in 
most narrative sequences, story or statement orders the images, here 
no customary surface greets the eye, but only a quarrel of contraries 
which must create theme and parallel. Eliot's "Rhapsody on a 
Windy Night" may be a series of creative images harmonious, 
however while Thomas's action of images, before we apprehend 
its work, seems discordant alone. 

Most of the contending images in these sonnets are from the Bible, 
especially Genesis and the Gospels, and from marine biology; but, 
having spent an hour or two with The Interpretation of Dreams^ 
Thomas put all his images through Freudian machinery to make 
artificial dreams. It was his delight to reduce the dreams of acquaint- 
ances to obvious signs, but the sonnets before us are products of the 
opposite process. Like all the poems of what Thomas himself called 
his womb-tomb period, his sonnets are true to elementary Freud, but 
however Freudian, an image from the Bible in a poem by Thomas 
retains its Biblical significance so that, as he says: "I, in my in- 
tricate image, stride on two levels." All the images of these earty 
poems are ambivalent: the word "bones" means death and sex; the 
ladder of cross-bones in the second sonnet is at once Jacob's ladder, 
making piratical love in a Freudian dream, and the formation oi 
the embryo; the "triangle landscape" is sexual and, since delta and 
pyramid are triangular, Egyptian. Womb and tomb, making love 
and dying are the furniture of these poems, but perhaps we should 


resist his invitation to translate; for the meaning of his images is 
less important than their action and appearance. "I took my marrow- 
ladle / Out of the wrinkled undertaker's van": it is best to enjoy 
this surrealist picture. If we translate, we get womb and tomb, birth 
and death; for translation of anything from early Thomas results in 
more of the same thing. Left as they are, however, his images are 
brilliant and functional. Signs no more but symbols with an element 
of significance, they may now create the theme. 

The theme of these sonnets, like that of most of his early poems, 
appears to be Thomas's own development from conception to ado- 
lescence or maturity. He loved the moment of his begetting, his 
sojourn in the womb, and all his troubles with love and poetry. In- 
deed, as Thomas hints in the first sonnet, "Altarwise by owl-light" is 
the life of "a dog among fairies." Since that dog is Thomas's idea of 
himself among contemporary poets, his sequence becomes another 
portrait of the artist as a young dog. Of the parallels that support 
the theme two are important: a voyage and the life of Christ. 

References to Odysseus, Jonah, and Moby Dick, together with 
medusae, sea nettles, and jellyfish compose a voyage of life. If 
men are bones on some beach, women are marine invertebrates. The 
"stinging siren's eye" and "the bagpipe-breasted ladies in the dead- 
weed" serve as Homer's Sirens, mothers, Muses, invitations to love, 
and pictures by Dali. That The Odyssey and Christ may get along 
agreeably together in "a Christian voyage," as Thomas puts it in 
the tenth sonnet, is not without example. We have only to think 
as Thomas probably did of Mr. Bloom. This brings us to our im- 
mediate concern : the use of myth as parallel to a process of embryo, 
child, and poet. 

Jesus is so evident in the sequence that some readers have mistaken 
parallel for theme. Starting in the garden as a "hangnail cracked 


from Adam," he is hatched on one leg as "a gentleman of wounds." 
These references to the fall of man and the cross attend Thomas's 
beginnings in that "cavern over the black stairs." After two-gunned 
Gabriel announces adolescence, the Lord's Prayer and the crucifixion 
present the bother of writing poems. The entombment, equated with 
"oracular archives" of Egypt, is the printing of hieroglyphic poems, 
which, done at last, allow Thomas to balance the globe and, like his 
tremendous predecessor, lie down with Capricorn and Cancer. The 
"old cock from nowheres" (both resurrected Christ and erected 
Thomas) has achieved his destiny. Not Christ in the sense Lawrence 
intended, but Christ as every man and poet, Thomas comes from and 
is nailed to a "rude, red tree," at once the cross, the tree of knowledge, 
and a poem. 

That Ulysses inspired this kind of parallel is made more likely by 
an apparent reference to Joyce in "To-day, this insect," a poem on 
fables, at the end of which, "Greek in the Irish sea," an ageless voice 
tells of a "cross of tales behind the fabulous curtain." We are no less 
familiar than Thomas was with figures on that curtain: the parallels 
of Odysseus, Christ, Hamlet, and Don Giovanni, but that of Moses 
is unfamiliar enough to secure our notice. During the conversation 
at the newspaper office, Moses appears first as Michelangelo's statue, 
"that stony effigy in frozen music, horned and terrible, of the human 
form divine, that eternal symbol of wisdom," then as rebel against 
Egyptian priesthood, leader of the chosen people from the house of 
bondage, and bearer from Sinai of tables "graven in the language of 
the outlaw." The latter references apply to Stephen Dedalus, exile, 
outlaw, and rebel against priesthood; and Michelangelo's statue 
seems to promise, as it describes, the book Stephen will write. But his 
parable of the plums, "A Pisgah Sight of Palestine," complicates the 
Mosaic parallel by reference to Bloom, who, like the Moses of the 


H3th Psalm, is to lead Stephen from the house of bondage to sight 
of the promised land without getting there himself. That Bloom's 
dimensions are increased throughout the book by the analogy of 
Moses is plain to the attentive reader. Mulligan calls him "Ikey 
Moses," someone at Bloom's trial shouts, "Moses, Moses, king of the 
jews," and Bloom's genealogy that ends with Christ begins with 
Moses, whose vision, like that of Bloom's seafaring surrogate in the 
coffee stall, may also have been impaired by sand in the Red Sea. 
The parallel of Moses is one of many devices for establishing the 
unity of Bloom and Stephen, and, by making each more general, 
enlarging them. References by each to "fleshpots of Egypt," Mosaic 
vessels associated with Bloom's bathtub, Plumtree's Potted Meat (by 
way of the parable of the plums), and Mrs. Bloom's pot, affirm 
their connection with its occupant. This allusive yet elaborate parallel 
with all its ramifications is not so solemn as that of Jesus and D. H. 
Lawrence. The disparity between Bloom and his fabulous analogue 
is not only illuminating but comic. 

To Thomas Mann such half serious, half comic parallels seemed 
"parody" of myth, as Henry Hatfield points out. Long before Joyce 
discovered its values, Mann used the technique in "Tristan" and 
"The Blood of the Walsungs." When in the first of these ironic 
stories a pretender to literature falls ineffectually in love with the 
wife of a business man, the parallel of Tristan, Isolde, and King 
Mark is established by Frau Kloterjahn's rendition of Wagner's 
Tristan on the sanitarium piano. The parody of Wagner's Die 
Walfare in the second of these stories is more elaborate and far 
less frivolous. Siegmund and Sieglinde, twins, lead a life of "rare 
uselessness" in their father's mansion. These spoilt exquisites, adoring 
each other, keep the inelegant world, to which they owe their luxury, 
at a distance. Siegmund has a passion for washing that would in- 


terest Freud, who drew much of his clientele from this class of so- 
ciety. Sieglinde recoils with distaste at the thought of marriage to her 
crude intended. Safe in a "warm little silken-lined retreat" of a car- 
riage with drawn blinds, the twins go to a performance of Die 
Walf(ure, the story of their namesakes, Siegmund, Sieglinde, and of 
a bear rug for incest. On their return home, a bear rug on the floor 
of Siegmund's boudoir, near his chaise longue, gives them an idea. 
Their incest, more refined than that of Wagner's primitives, may 
make the existence of Sieglinde's fiance "less trivial," says Siegmund, 
rising from that rug; but incest, however perfumed, is the symbol 
of narcissism, not theirs alone but that of their world. Since action and 
parody combine in Mann's story to create a vision of the self-centered, 
decadent society that was to produce two wars, the Wagnerian ac- 
companiment is not without political point. 

Some parallels in recent times, Faulkner's A Fable, Eric Linklater's 
Laxdale Hall, and Gore Vidal's Judgment of Paris, for example, are 
more obvious and less revealing than Mann's, but most are slighter 
and more allusive. Consider the ghostly intrusions of Parsifal in 
The Waste Land and The Waves. In Eliot's poem Parsifal is there, 
somewhere behind the scenes, by virtue of a quotation from Ver- 
laine, a footnote on Jessie L. Weston, and a ruined chapel. Though 
these suggestions are supposed to bring to mind the quest for the grail 
and the recapture of fertility that form the implicit structure of the 
poem, they did not bring these matters to my mind until I had read a 
monograph on the subject. Reappearing as Percival in Virginia 
Woolf's novel, that hero is equally remote. A leader of men, who 
falls on his empty head from a horse in India and dies, her Percival, 
never around in person, occupies the uneasy minds of the six speakers, 
of whom, as their center and their dream, he makes "a six-sided 
flower." If they represent becoming, he is being. Though what this 


has to do with the grail I shall never know for sure until I find a 
monograph; maybe he has found the grail of reality while they are 
still looking. 

The allusion to Narcissus at the end of Faulkner's The Sound and 
the Fury is less baffling. After Benjy attends a nondiscursive Easter 
sermon with Dilsey, his grave, hopeless bellow expresses "all voice- 
less misery under the sun." To restore peace, Luster gives the idiot a 
single narcissus, and, since its stem is broken, puts a splint on it. 
Benjy holds his flower, his eyes "serene and ineffable" until his car- 
riage turns unfortunately left at the Confederate monument. Once 
this sinister choice has been corrected, Benjy 's eyes become serene 
again as he holds his broken flower. Easter and Narcissus together 
imply the hope of renewal that Dilsey seems to embody. Splints for 
the symbolic flower, however, hold questionable promise. 

From myth to ritual is but a little step either way. Which of the 
two follows the other depends upon one's school, but nowadays most 
agree that myth is there to justify ritual or symbolic action at its 
lowest and most acceptable extreme. Those "vague acts of the priest- 
hood" that pleased Stephen Dedalus "by reason of their semblance 
of reality and of their distance from it" pleased Eliot more; and in his 
plays ritual seems more important than the myth it celebrates. The 
mumbling of women in Murder in the Cathedral, no more discursive 
than Benjy's sermon, puts me in mind of churches as it is meant to 
do, and though the echoes die, my longing for a missal persists. 
Parodies of liturgy interrupt The Cocktail Party and bring The 
Family Reunion to a bad end. It is idle to transpose them into 
thought; for Eliot's rituals are what he feels. Even Yeats when young 
longed for "a new ritual, the glimmering of new talismans and sym- 
bols," for priests of literature who with "a little waving of the hands, 
a little murmuring of the lips" could charm their congregations. 


Later, he found the ceremony of his desire in the Noh plays of Japan. 
His own plays, based on them, seemed "verse, ritual, music, and 
dance in association with action." But drama sinks with alacrity to 
its origins, and examples of ritual from novel or poem might prove 
more remarkable. 

The Plumed Serpent by D. H. Lawrence is what we want. "Weary 
of fixed meanings," Kate, the heroine, seeks "the presence of that 
which is forever unsaid." This longing for a nondiscursive form is 
satisfied in part by the myth of Quetzalcoatl, the reborn god who 
emerges from his pale, milky lake to change the world and bring 
mystery back. The images of bird, snake, sun, and morning star 
that attend his reappearance, promise a union of above and below, 
but the rituals devised by Don Ramon, those endless ceremonies 
of drum, dance, hymn, and mindless sermon, prove more enchanting. 
It is clear that the myth of Quetzalcoatl is there to support these 
rituals, which carry the central meanings. The very structure of the 
darkly splendid novel is ritualistic, as undulant and hypnotic as the 
bird tread of the dancers; and all Lawrence ever felt or thought is 
presented by the ceremony of his prose. 

Though E. M. Forster, keeping aloof, does not participate in the 
rites he describes, those that ensplendor the last part of A Passage to 
India are almost as brilliant and expressive as Lawrence's. In the 
Hindu temple old Godbole, who dodges the definite, superintends 
the birth of a god who "is, was not, is not, was," and, as one might 
suppose, his ceremonies lack precision. "A frustration of reason and 
form," they prove formlessness a form for the ineffable. "How can 
it be expressed," Forster asks, "in anything but itself?" For the par- 
ticipants these rites are a revelation, a way of apprehending what 
cannot be apprehended, of ravishing the unknowable, and of "mak- 
ing in each man, according to his capacity, an emotion that he 


would not have had otherwise." To us the shapeless shape that 
Forster constructs presents feelings and ideas that, as we have no- 
ticed, release the tension between formal mosque and abysmal cave, 
By tone, rhythm, and structure "Ceremony After a Fire Raid" by 
Dylan Thomas parodies the movements of a ritual. The incantatory 
opening reveals the death of a child; the second part is a discursive 
meditation; and the third and most glorious is a hallelujah, the 
meanings of which are confirmed by references to priest and service. 
An atheist and a Presbyterian too, Thomas brings, as with a common 
prayer book in his hands, assurance of eternal life all the joy of 
man's desiring and all that woman hankers for. 


Strange Relations 



. O FIND how symbols put things together we must look more 
steadily than we have and from another point of view at matters 
touched upon before; we must also notice other arrangements and 
other devices. This chapter is about allusion and quotation, effects 
of juxtaposition, elaborated themes, and structures both large and 
small all these not only as significant shapes but as ways of joining 
part to part or, sometimes, the work itself to other things. The end 
of a progress through these matters is structure as symbol. 

Allusion and quotation may seem far from this end. No more sym- 
bolic in themselves than a tree or climbing a ladder, they too, be- 
coming suggestive through context, may serve not only as bearers of 
gifts and inviters of guesses but, looking two ways, as importers of 
things from outside the work to enrich it. When in The Waste Land 
Eliot makes Marvell or Dante say what he means, he unites times, 
places, and other cultures with our own, or, as he says in "Tradition 
and the Individual Talent," the pastness of the past with its presence. 
Functioning among the quotations he arranges, those from Dante or 

Marvell unite the arrangement with something else by reference to 
it. If the reference is plain to us, we enjoy a double experience; if 
not, we must be contented with what we have before us on the 
page. A greater deprivation awaits the literate; for, contented with 
identifying the reference, they may stop short of finding what it 
brings to its new setting and how it works there. 

In view of Eliot's proclaimed distaste for Milton, the allusion to 
him, the quotation from him, and the imitation of him in Four 
Quartets improve their effects by surprise, a characteristic, says Eliot, 
of the best literature. Except for the last word, which seems ambigu- 
ous, "One who died blind and quiet," a reference to Milton in "Lit- 
tle Gidding," is not unkind. Maybe as Eliot sat waiting for the gifts 
of faith, hope, and charity to descend, charity descended; or maybe 
the reference marks a change of policy. That this is the case is 
plain from another document, but before we get to that, let us 
consider "East Coker," where "dark dark dark" is quoted from 
Samson Agonistes and "vacant interstellar spaces" recalls Milton's 
"vacant interlunar cave." What that quotation and this distortion 
are doing in Eliot's poem is the question. References to darkness 
and blindness, they bring the condition of Samson and Milton, to- 
gether with its moral and political causes, to bear upon the condition 
of Eliot's captains, bankers, and eminent men of letters, who with 
the rest of us are going into the dark, not the benign darkness of St. 
John of the Cross but an emptier kind. These suggestive references, 
which combine the inadequacies of three times and places, are sup- 
plemented by three Homeric similes, another surprise; for Eliot had 
found such detachable devices revolting. His three similes offer three 
more kinds of darkness: that of a theater when the lights go out, 
that of the London Underground, and that of another etherized 
patient. These similes, however, are less Homeric than Miltonic, as 


the context proves; and imitation of Milton becomes another refer- 
ence, this time not only to his physical, religious, and political dark- 
ness but to his poetic method, which unaccountably emerges into 
light. Working as a footnote to this emergence, Eliot's latest essay on 
Milton applauds his similes and the rest of a poetic suitable now for 
modern poets to use and critics to adore. Therefore the three Mil- 
tonic similes of "East Coker" seem at once an example, a manifesto, 
and a symbol of this change of heart, which, to be sure, we might 
not have apprehended from the text itself without the essay. But 
Eliot, whether as man or poet, has always relied upon external sup- 
port. Essays and footnotes outside the text become the context of 
his quotations, which, looking out more often than in, give equal 
testimony of his habit. 

The epigraph of The Waste Land, however, looks in as much as 
out. This curious mixture of Latin and Greek, quoted from Petronius, 
may be translated as follows: "I myself saw the Cumaean Sibyl hang- 
ing in a bottle, and when those boys asked, * Sibyl, what do you 
want?' that one replied, *I want to be dead.' " The reference is not 
to Petronius but to his Sibyl, who, like Tennyson's Tithonus, having 
asked and received immortality without youth, consequently aged 
and shrank until bottled for convenience. It was that Sibyl in her 
happier prime who directed Aeneas on his journey to the under- 
world, and here she hangs at the entrance to Eliot's underworld to 
point the way for us. A suitable directress in her present condition, 
she also serves as the image of ours, an image of living death ; for we 
are bottled Sibyls hanging on the wall, incapable of prophecy or 
motion. By reference the quotation brings these ideas and feelings to 
the poem, but by mixture of Latin and Greek the quotation also 
creates an air of pedantry, which thickens as the poem proceeds, to 
warn us we are lighter than we think. Beyond that the Sibyl antici- 


pates the women of the poem: Mme Sosostris, the hyacinth girl, the 
hysterical woman at her dressing table, and all the rest, as degen- 
erate and powerless as their shrunken original. Brilliantly functional, 
she concentrates the feelings and persons of the poem while intro- 
ducing them. Without her work the poem would succeed, but it 
becomes more meaningful as, persisting in memory, she directs us 
through the structures she orders and includes. Finding her and 
putting her where she hangs are among Eliot's happiest achieve- 

Without my context I could do little with Eliot's. To one of my 
students, better at Sibyls than I am, I owe the identification of Pe- 
tronius and to another a possible reference of Father Hopkins's 
Sibyl. "Spelt from Sibyl's Leaves," one of the most terrible of son- 
nets, presents agony by ponderous, grinding, overloaded move- 
ment, by images of dapple-ending night and naked nerves, and by 
reference to the Sibyl, who, though bottled, can scatter a few ap- 
plicable leaves. This reference to his "oracle" is plain enough, but 
there seems to be another, suggested by the action of winding a horn, 
which, together with the general feeling, brings Thomas of Celano's 
famous hymn to mind : 

Dies irae, dies ilia 
solvet saeclum in favilla, 
teste David cum Sibylla. 

Converted to Christianity by Vergil no doubt, Thomas's Sibyl pre- 
sides over the day of judgment, announced by the winding of a 

Tuba, mirum spargens sonum 
per sepulcra regionum, 
coget omnes ante thronum. 


If this is the reference Hopkins intended, as the text certainly implies, 
it increases the horror of his condition by Christian as well as natural 
and classical despair. His theme, however, is not the day of wrath, 
as the pious might wish and as the student who had this admirable 
insight maintained; rather the day of wrath has been imported by 
horn and Sibyl to reinforce the suggestion that Hopkins feels like 
the damned. Composed of these references and the rest of his ma- 
chinery, the poem, a symbol of his feeling and idea, shows it is Hop- 
kins he mourns for. 

Let the celebration of my ingenious students conclude for the 
time being with an example from Ulysses. The end of the Eumaeus 
episode had puzzled me for years. As Stephen and Bloom proceed 
from the cabman's shelter to 7 Eccles Street "to be married by Father 
Maker" the driver of the "sweeper car . . . simply sat in his seat 
near the end of lower Gardiner street and looked after their low- 
backed car." Since Bloom and Stephen are not in a car, their de- 
parture in one seems odd until the literary allusion has been identi- 
fied. The passages in italics, as my student pointed out, are from 
"The Low-backed Car," a ballad by Samuel Lover, which tells of a 
couple off to get married by the priest. Using quotation to enrich one 
context by importing another, as Eliot was doing, Joyce suggests by 
this device that Stephen and Bloom, having met and agreed, are 
now off to be united in the following chapter, where over the 
kitchen table at number seven they will symbolize their atonement 
with cocoa or god-food. Consubstantial at last, Bloom will become 
Blephen and Stephen Stoom. While anticipating and suggesting this 
union, the image of the lowbacked car brings two chapters together. 
There is no clearer example of symbol in this capacity. 

Nevertheless Ulysses shows more elaborate examples of construc- 
tive and suggestive reference. It may be that the discovery of Mr. 


Bloom is the climax of the enormous comedy, but it is plain that 
Mrs. Bloom occupies the center of things. Stephen's understanding 
of that is his final triumph, a triumph to which Mr. Bloom leads 
him. An allusion to Dante leads us to knowledge of what Stephen 
finds. This allusion, together with many plainer references, estab- 
lishes The Divine Comedy as one of the principal, yet least apparent, 
parallels upon which Ulysses is founded and to which it owes some- 
thing of its richness, massiveness, and depth. 

The plainest reference to Dante in Ulysses is Stephen's ironic ac- 
count in the Eumaeus episode of the impetuosity of Italians: "we 
have the impetuosity of Dante and the isosceles triangle, Miss Porti- 
nari, he fell in love with and Leonardo and san Tommaso Mas- 
tino." Why Beatrice is an isosceles triangle, though difficult, is not 
beyond all conjecture. Maybe she is isosceles rather than equilateral 
(like Mrs. Bloom and the mark of Bass's ale) because she has almost 
no bottom. St. Thomas Aquinas, Dante's philosopher, is described as 
a mastiff (Mastino) here, and elsewhere as "the bulldog of Aquin," 
because during the middle ages by a Latin pun on their name the 
Dominicans were known as dogs of God. Joyce, who had a horror 
of dogs, was turning at this time from Aquinas to Bruno, and he 
had turned already, as Stephen proclaims in Stephen Hero, from 
Dante to Ibsen. But Joyce found Dante more useful than Bruno or 
Ibsen as a parallel for Stephen's quest. This parallel, suggested less by 
allusions than by quotations, implies that Telemachus-Hamlet- 
Stephen in search of a father or rather in search of himself is not 
unlike Dante. 

It is likely that in Dante's four meanings, literal and allegorical, 
Joyce found a hint for making Stephen more general. Since, as he 
remarks in the library: "His own image to a man with . . . genius 
is the standard of all experience, material and moral," Joyce's prob- 


lem was how to free his hero from personal attachment and, while 
retaining the details of autobiography, to raise him to symbol. Lit- 
erally, Dante is Dante; allegorically he is everyman searching for 
"peace and ardor." So Stephen, while literally young Joyce, is sym- 
bolically every young man in search of maturity and adjustment. 
Using a hint from Dante, Joyce made the personal quest of an exiled 
aesthete the quest of mankind for humanity. If we take his quest 
aesthetically, Stephen finds the subject matter of his future art and 
his creative power; if morally, his adolescent pride yields to mature 
compassion; if socially, he begins to understand his oneness with 
common man; and if religiously, he finds in mankind a substitute 
for God. His success, which like his quest is far from being a me- 
chanical parody of Dante, is symbolized by his meeting with Mr. 
Bloom and a little later by his apprehension of Mrs. Bloom. 

In the Aeolus episode Stephen, meditating the rhymes of the poem 
he has written on the beach, quotes four fragments from the In- 
fer no: 

la tua pace 

che parlar ti place 

.... mentreche il vento, come fa, si tace. 
. . . per Taer perso 

Literally these fragments are examples of rhyme and of Stephen's 
learning, but in the matter of Homer, since they concern Paolo and 
Francesca, these fragments agree with the other references to wind 
in that gusty chapter. Morally, since Paolo and Francesca occupy 
the second circle, these lines refer to lust, one of Stephen's dearest 
sins. But these lines from the Inferno are followed immediately by 
two fragments from the Paradiso: "quella pacifica oriafiamma" and 
"di rimirar fe piu ardenti," both of which concern the mystical rose 
of Dante's vision. By way of these quotations we rise from human 


lust to divine love, from time to eternity, from Francesca to Mary, a 
progress suggesting that of Stephen from the lust and pride of the 
Portrait to the charity implied by Joyce's presentation of Mrs. Bloom. 
Mr. Bloom is at once God, humanity, and the subject of Joyce's 
art or rather he suggests them, but having discovered Mr. Bloom, 
Stephen leaves him. As Mr. Bloom accompanies his guest to the 
back yard, Stephen silently intones, in the words of the H3th Psalm, 
the departure from Egypt for the promised land : "In exitu Israel dc 
Egypto: domus Jacob de populo barbaro." Serving not only the 
parallel of Moses but also that of Dante, Stephen's choice of psalm 
is at once the most obscure and the most significant allusion to him 
and his symbolic method in Joyce's work ; for by his choice Stephen 
seems to imply the Epistle to Can Grande, in which, dedicating the 
Paradiso to his patron, Dante used this psalm to illustrate his four- 
fold method: 

To elucidate, then, what we have to say, be it known that the sense of 
this work is not simple, but on the contrary it may be called polysemous, 
that is to say, u of more senses than one"; for it is one sense which we 
get through the letter, and another which we get through the thing the 
letter signifies; and the first is called literal, but the second allegorical or 
mystic. And this mode of treatment, for its better manifestation, may be 
considered in this verse: "When Israel came out of Egypt, and the house 
of Jacob from a people of strange speech. . . ." For if we inspect the 
letter alone the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt in the time 
of Moses is presented to us; if the allegory, our redemption wrought by 
Christ; if the moral sense, the conversion of the soul from the grief and 
misery of sin to the state of grace is presented to us; if the anagogical, 
the departure of the holy soul from the slavery of this corruption to the 
liberty of eternal glory is presented to us. 

Preparing the learned reader for a new Paradiso and suggesting the 
fourfold method, this allusion prepares him for more than one mean- 


ing. Dante's explication of the psalm also summarizes Stephen's tri- 
umph and one of the central meanings of Ulysses. Led by his Moses 
from bondage to the realization of his humanity, Stephen is free at 
last to achieve eternal glory by art. 

Emerging from the door of Bloom's house into that infertile gar- 
den, which they proceed to water, Stephen and Bloom look up at the 
"visible luminous sign" of Mrs. Bloom's window while Mr. Bloom 
elucidates "the mystery of an invisible person, his wife Marion 
(Molly) . . . , denoted by a visible splendid sign, a lamp . . . with 
indirect and direct verbal allusions or affirmations: with subdued 
affection and admiration . . . with suggestion." Her lamp, casting 
on the ceiling a pattern of "concentric circles" as if to imply Dante's 
final vision of the Trinity, appears to imply Stephen's enlighten- 
ment and his vision of ultimate reality. As Dante was led to his 
vision by St. Bernard, so Stephen is led to his by Mr. Bloom. It seems 
likely that in one of his capacities Mr. Bloom serves as St. Bernard, 
and it is likelier that Mrs. Bloom is Dante's mystical rose, symbol of 
heaven and of the Blessed Virgin. Or rather, to give the relationships 
their due, St. Bernard and the rose expand the meanings of Mr. and 
Mrs. Bloom. 

The Virgin as rose and queen of the rosary is a principal theme 
of the chapter on Gerty MacDowell, who, as she sits on the beach, 
blushes a glorious "rosebloom." Meanwhile Father John Hughes, 
S.J., conducting in the church nearby the men's temperance retreat, 
celebrates the rosary and gives benediction: "pray for us, honourable 
vessel, pray for us, vessel of singular devotion, pray for us, mystical 
rose. . . . and many who had erred and wandered, their eyes wet 
with contrition but for all that bright with hope for the reverend 
father Hughes had told them what the great saint Bernard said in 
his famous prayer of Mary." St. Bernard, whose devotion to the 


Virgin is singular, comes next to St. Leopold in the procession of 
saints in the preceding chapter. Leopold, whose devotion to Mary- 
Marion seems as great (though by no means singular), is described 
in the Ithaca chapter as "centripetal"; for, like Dante's Bernard, 
Bloom, looking up at Marion's lamp, is drawn to the central petal. 

As for roses: Joyce's Portrait and Ulysses are a garden of those 
blooms, which traditionally suggest woman, eternity, and creative 
ecstasy. In the Portrait as Stephen wakes one morning and composes 
a poem, his moment of creation is presented in terms that associate 
it with his girl, with mystical ecstasy in general and, in particular, 
with Dante's vision of the enormous rose. The overblown flowers of 
the wallpaper form a "roseway from where he lay upwards to heaven 
all strewn with scarlet flowers." In Ulysses, though flowers are every- 
where, they flourish in greatest profusion in the chapters of lotus 
eating and siren song. The answer to Lenehan's riddle (What opera 
is like a railway line?) is Rose of Castille. Lenehan associates his 
riddle with Miss Douce, the barmaid, who wears a jumping rose on 
her satiny bosom; but Bloom, perverting Lenehan's question to 
"What railway opera is like a tramline in Gibraltar?" associates it 
with Marion. She is from Spain; she is connected with Bloom's 
castile soap; and she is certainly a rose; but why she is a railway is 
unclear unless it is because she is a common carrier. She is a rose 
and that is partly why, I think, Joyce chose the name of Bloom, 
which, as Marion lies abed, she finds suitable. 

The affair of "Penrose" confirms the rosiness of Mrs. Bloom. 
During the Lestrygonian episode, Mr. Bloom, frustrated by a defect 
of memory not altogether without Freudian significance, tries to 
think of the name of that "priestylooking chap" with weak eyes, 
"Pen something." Later, meeting the blind piano tuner and helping 
him across Dawson Street and into Molesworth, Mr. Bloom suddenly 


has it: "Penrose! That was that chap's name." Since the priestlike 
piano tuner with his stick and his quarrel with the world is one 
of Stephen's surrogates, it becomes plain that Penrose is another. 
Stephen the penman accounts for the first syllable of Penrose, but 
what of the second ? This is suggested by Virag in the Circe episode: 
"Read the Priest, the Woman and the Confessional. Penrose." Al- 
ready connecting Bloom and Stephen, Penrose now looks forward 
to Molly and her monologue. The Ithaca episode reveals Penrose 
as one of Molly's lovers; in the last chapter she thinks of him in 
terms that associate him with Stephen; and a little later she thinks 
of Stephen himself, who, she hopes, will become a lover and write 
about her: "They all write about some woman in their poetry." If 
Mrs. Bloom is the rose, the second syllable of Penrose refers to her. 
Connecting Bloom, Stephen, and Molly, Joyce's trinity, Penrose, ac- 
quiring and shedding new meaning, now suggests that Stephen, her 
most Platonic lover, will use his pen to celebrate the rose. This pen, 
like Mann's pencil, has more than one meaning, and so has that 
rose, but such implications, whether sexual or religious, serve only 
to make the domestic structure firmer, funnier, and more intricate. 

As she lies abed Marion thinks first of Bloom and then, as if to 
provoke associations, of Mrs. Riordan, the Dante of A Portrait of 
the Artist. She recalls the white rose she wore when Mulvey's letter 
came, how as a girl in Gibraltar she was a rose, and at the end of 
her rumination she thinks: "I love flowers Id love to have the whole 
place swimming in roses." As her thoughts rise to the tremendous 
affirmation, she is lost in an ecstasy of red roses and flowers of the 
mountain. Creative power, the river and mountain of life, the fe- 
cundity of nature, and the wonder of God are united in these ultimate 

That Marion Bloom was born on the 8th of September helps to 


establish her significance; for that is the feast of the Blessed Vir- 
gin's nativity. Though neither the Blessed Virgin nor the mystical 
rose, she is like them in symbolizing unity, reconciliation, and peace. 
As human Mr. Bloom is compared to God, yet is not God, so human 
Mrs. Bloom is compared, with Dante's help, to the rose of God. 
Not to be taken literally, these analogies are correspondences that 
carry the meaning of the book. The same holds for Stephen's vision 
of her lamp. Although he recalls Dante's vision by analogy, Stephen's 
enlightenment is humane ; but his vision of this world corresponds to 
Dante's vision of the next. After his mystical vision of heaven, Dante 
returns to write his comedy, and, after his mystical vision of hu- 
manity, Stephen, now mature Joyce, leaves Bloom's back yard to 
write his. 

Ulysses, which tells of the flowering of Stephen's genius, is the 
fruit of that genius. Since Mrs. Bloom is the heart of the book, she 
is not only flower of vision but fruit of creation, the melon or "cream- 
fruit" that Mr. Bloom offers the still frustrated poet in a dream. Her 
fruitiness, accepted at last by Stephen, is established by Bloom's final 
act of the day: he kisses her "plump mellow yellow smellow melons 
. . . with melonsmellonous osculation," a correspondence for which 
not Dante but Mr. Bloom is responsible. That, aside from melons, 
the growth we have been botanizing upon comes from the seeds of 
quotation and allusion is additional assurance of their fertility. 

Taking what she could from Joyce, Virginia Woolf called Ulysses 
"an illiterate, underbred book," and in her Diary she also recorded 
her dismay when Tom (she called Mr. Eliot Tom) found Ulysses 
as good as War and Peace. Finding in her books the technique of 
quotation common to Eliot and Joyce, therefore, is no surprise. When 
Mr. Ramsay, striding up and down his terrace, shouts " 'Someone 
had blundered/ " we share the sense of failure and courage he shares 


with that noble six hundred. There is a quotation in Mrs. Dalloway, 
however, that is not only revelatory but constructive: 

Quiet descended on her, calm, content, as her needle, drawing the silk 
smoothly to its gentle pause, collected the green folds together and attached 
them, very lightly, to the belt. So on a summer's day waves collect, over- 
balance, and fall; collect and fall; and the whole world seems to be saying 
"that is all" more and more ponderously, until even the heart in the body 
which lies in the sun on the beach says too, That is all. Fear no more, 
says the heart. Fear no more, says the heart, committing its burden to 
some sea, which sighs collectively for all sorrows, and renews, begins, 
collects, lets fall. And the body alone listens to the passing bee; the wave 
breaking; the dog barking, far away barking and barking. 

Before we get to " Tear no more,' " the embedded quotation, we 
might pause to compare this passage, one of her most beautiful, with 
a passage in Night and Day, the last novel she wrote before turning 
from discourse to symbol: 

As she ran her needle in and out of the wool, she thought of the various 
stages in her life which made her present position seem the culmination 
of successive miracles. She thought of her clerical father in his country 
parsonage, and of her mother's death, and of her own determination to 
obtain education, and of her college life. . . . 

Though both passages concern sewing hands and idle mind, that 
from Night and Day catalogues the contents of the mind whereas 
that from Mrs. Dalloway offers the quality while suggesting the sub- 
stance of a mental state without its particulars. Rhythm, sound, and 
that wonderful simile conspire to give the feeling of peace as of an 
afternoon nap. " Tear no more/ " the quotation from Cymbeline, 
works in this congenial setting. 

Mrs. Dalloway, who reads no books, reads the opening lines of 
Shakespeare's dirge for golden lads and girls on her way to buy 


flowers that morning as she pauses before the window of a book- 
seller, where the book lies open. Appealing to something deep within 
her and haunting her throughout the day, " Tear no more' " brings 
from source a deathly air that, surrounding her, as she sits and sews, 
proves her meditation one of death. In the Preface, Virginia Woolf 
says she had once meant Mrs. Dalloway to die at the end of the 
book; but in it as it stands, Septimus, her surrogate or double, dies 
instead. Hearing of his death at her party, she feels drawn to one 
who has "completed her" and vicariously enjoys his suicide; for, in 
love with life, she is in love with death. That it was Virginia Woolf s 
purpose to provide Mrs. Dalloway with Freud's death wish is made 
probable not only by the Preface but by the fact that as Freud's English 
publisher she had published Beyond the Pleasure Principle, his state- 
ment of the death wish, shortly before commencing her novel; but 
that Mrs. Dalloway 's death wish was not altogether a bookish fancy 
is proved by Mrs. Woolf s own inclination. 

" Tear no more' " serves not only to reveal and confirm Mrs. Dal- 
loway's deepest desire but to connect her with the death-wishing 
double whose triumph she envies. Lacking the advantage of a book- 
seller's window, Septimus thinks nevertheless of the very quotation 
as he lies before his suicide on the sofa in the sitting room: "his hand 
lay there on the back of the sofa, as he had seen his hand lie when he 
was bathing, floating, on the top of the waves, while far away on 
shore he heard dogs barking and barking far away. Fear no more, 
says the heart in the body; fear no more." Septimus, whose identity 
with Mrs. Dalloway is established by this passage, is one of many 
doubles in recent literature. There are the hero and his double in 
Dostoyevsky's The Double, the captain and his guest in Conrad's 
"The Secret Sharer," Swann and Marcel, the host of doubles or sur- 
rogates in Ulysses, and many more. In every case, one of the pair 


may be considered a projection and, in a sense, a symbol of the other. 
Crazy Septimus presents the hidden nature of sociable Mrs. Dallo- 

By virtue of the name itself, juxtaposition seems an even better 
way than quotation of putting things together. That it is also a variety 
of symbol is implied by the approval of Coleridge, who, in The 
Statesman's Manual, rejecting mere balance or compromise of two 
powers, favors a "living and generative" union, "a creative overflow- 
ing" in which "the two component counter-powers actually inter- 
penetrate each other, and generate a higher third, including both 
the former, ita tamen sit alia et major!' The two contending elements 
become "the image or symbol" of what they generate. Hegel, an- 
other romantic, had a similar idea, and Mallarme, inspired by Hegel, 
speaks in "Crise de vers" of instituting an exact relationship between 
images in order to detach from them a third aspect, "fusible et clair 
presente a la divination." After such assurance can we doubt that 
one plus one may equal three or that placing two things side by side 
may create and present something else ? 

The great authority on doing that is Sergei M. Eisenstein, whose 
word for putting two things creatively together is "montage." Two 
pieces of film placed together, he says in The Film Sense, "inevitably 
combine into a new concept, a new quality, arising out of that juxta- 
position." The result, less a sum of the parts than a creation of a third 
something qualitatively distinguishable from its components, must 
be foreseen by the artist and subordinated to aesthetic and political 
purpose; all contributing elements must be selected to "evoke in the 
perception and feelings of the spectator the most complete image of 
the theme itself." His insistence that the suggestion must be limited 
and the spectator's necessary participation directed sounds communal 
enough, but Eisenstein, as his apologies show, had been suspected of 


formalism and a preference for art. Certainly the examples of mon- 
tage by which he illustrates his points are unexceptionable. Consider 
this sequence from his picture Stride: (i) the slaughter of a bull; (2) 
the slaughter of a crowd of striking workers; (3) an ax; (4) a gun. 
The participating Russian knows what to make of these. 

First applied to the movies by D. W. Griffith, montage has aesthetic 
applications beyond his scope and, indeed, beyond that of any single 
art. Griffith's disciple Eisenstein finds montage in Paradise Lost, in 
the portmanteau words of Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky," anc j j n 
Finnegans Wa\c. "We must study Joyce," he said. 

We might follow Eisenstein's advice for a moment before turning 
to less obtrusive matters. The pun, one of the central means of poetry, 
is the medium of Finnegans Wakf, and puns, as Eisenstein observes, 
are telescoped montage or montage by superimposition. "Are we 
speachin d'anglas landadge or are you sprakin sea Djoytsch?" asks 
Joyce. However dazzling such collocations of elements (French, Ger- 
man, land and sea in this case), they serve immediate context and 
general theme. Beyond that, they issue richly indefinite suggestions 
that would never do behind the curtain. Joyce's combinations, what 
is worse, are witty and almost always funny. "Jesuistical," which 
puts Jesuitical and casuistical into one portmanteau, is montage at 
its simplest and most rewarding. "Wednesbury" is more complicated. 
A place name in its context, it acquires the idea of time by confusion 
with Wednesday; Woden, wed, and bury, referring to religion, mar- 
riage, and burial, the three stages of Vico's temporal pattern, include 
a major theme of the book. Analysis, which yields these elements, 
gives no idea of a whole greater, as Eisenstein says, than the sum of 
these parts a thing for immediate apprehension, which, however, 
is improved by simultaneous awareness of the parts. The quickness 
Joyce demands of his readers is rewarded more readily by montage 


of phrase. "Ramrod the meaty hunter" needs no commentary, nor, 
if you let your mind play on it awhile, does the following union of 
Descartes and Pope: "Sink deep or touch not the Cartesian spring!" 
That Joyce had the movies in mind, as Eisenstein had Joyce, is cer- 
tain not only from his establishment of Dublin's first movie house 
but from references in Finnegans Wal^e, his "allnights newseyreel." 
At their meeting in 1930, Eisenstein and Joyce must have had plenty 
to talk about. 

Montage in its more customary sense of juxtaposed images or in- 
cidents is everywhere in Joyce's work. Sequences in A Portrait of the 
Artist may be diagrammed as Eisenstein diagrammed his scenarios. 
Take this sequence at Clongowes Wood College: (i) the sound of 
cricket bats, compared to water dropping in a bowl; (2) a conversa- 
tion about "smugging" in the urinal; (3) the dainty nails of "Lady" 
Boyle, a smugger; (4) the cool white hands of Eileen and the 
Virgin's Tower of Ivory; (5) the college urinal and graffiti on its 
walls; (6) a conversation about punishment; (7) the sound of 
cricket bats again. There are no transitions; Joyce makes no com- 
ment; Stephen concludes nothing; but from this collocation of ele- 
ments arises a kind of nameless nastiness that fixes our impression 
of the school. Montage as symbol was never more instructively dis- 
played, except perhaps in the less subtle but no less excellent scene 
at the agricultural fair in Madame Bovary. 

Yeats, who based much of his philosophy upon warring contraries, 
speaks in his Autobiography of their acquiring sex and engendering: 
"All creation is from conflict." That he applied the principle to poems 
is evident from "Oil and Blood," a montage of two elements. In the 
first stanza the bodies of holy men, lying in elaborate tombs, give 
forth a sweet-smelling oil; in the other stanza vampires full of blood 
lie under trampled clay, in bloody shrouds, their lips wet. These 


images, at once similar and dissimilar, are given the semblance of 
logical connection by "But," the opening word of the second stanza. 
Not logic, however, but creative contiguity explains the feeling of the 
poem. As for idea: the two visions produce a composite vision, larger 
than either, that carries an indefinable commentary upon man's life 
and times. 

Dylan Thomas professed Hegelian method. Taking an image, he 
said, he placed it alongside another and let them generate a third. 
I have never been able to trace the process among the dizzy juxta- 
positions of his early poems, but his general practice seems related 
to montage. The "barley dark" and the "milking moonlight" of "In 
the White Giant's Thigh," for example, owe their effects to the 
transfer of epithets from the context where they are at home to one 
a little alien to their habit. Epithet and noun, nothing much in them- 
selves or alone, become creative lying together. The opposition of 
two times in "Poem in October," which might seem similar in kind, 
is softened so much by discourse that it lacks the impact of naked 
montage. Times, however, are among its better materials as the work 
of Eliot proves. 

"Sweeney Among the Nightingales," a poem of two times, owes 
tidiness and mystery to the abrupt collocation of its elements. Eisen- 
stein would have reduced the poem to this scenario: (i) Sweeney 
in a whorehouse; (2) a nightingale singing near a convent; (3) 
another nightingale singing in another place at another time; (4) 
the murder of Agamemnon. That the arrangement is pleasing is 
shown by the fame of the poem, but neat quatrains, promising sense, 
present uncertainty instead. The man in mocha brown is puzzling, 
but what bothers and delights us most is the suggested though im- 
probable association of Sweeney and Agamemnon. That they are 
unalike is at once apparent: the one a modern vulgarian, the other 


an ancient hero. As their strange connection stimulates thought, it 
may occur to us that the two are alike in being troubled by women. 
Sweeney, who has avoided some feminine conspiracy against him, is 
shrewder, however, than Agamemnon, who has succumbed. Is that 
why nightingales, presumably letting Sweeney alone, stain the noble 
shroud with droppings ? We toy with these while the montage does 
its work. What it creates is not that union of feeling and thought 
Eliot once promised but feeling alone, a feeling so unthinkable that 
its only expression is what created it. Whereas the arrangements of 
past and present in "Burbank with a Baedeker" and The Waste Land 
are definite enough to invite discourse, nobody has made much sense 
out of Agamemnon and Sweeney, who resist the intelligence more 
than "almost successfully." 

Suggestive conjunctions of a less mysterious sort make up lost 
time for Proust. Otherwise his privileged moments, at once the cause 
and essence of his book, are not unlike Eliot's temporal montage. 
The cup of tea in the first volume, the uneven paving stone, the sound 
of spoon on plate, and the feel of a napkin in the last, together with 
several experiences between the scent of hawthorn, for example 
carry and reveal all Proust had to say. Although these moments, in- 
volving taste, sight, hearing, smell, and touch, are present, their 
magic comes from sudden correspondence with forgotten sensations 
in the past. The privileged moment is a montage of two sensations 
and two times or, to put it as the great "amphibian" of past and 
present commonly did, of sensation and memory. Their momentary 
contact calls from the unconscious a forgotten past and allows the 
artist recovering it to make it permanent. The first two volumes of 
Remembrance of Things Past explore times opened by a cup of 
tea. The rest was disclosed and opened for exploration by those 
moments at the final party. 


The fusing of two sensations from time is out of it. At such 
moments, as Oliver Gogarty would say, "it isn't this time of year 
at all." Yet Proust appears time's celebrant, not its refugee. In a way 
he is both, and what happens when, after long absence, he attends the 
great party at the end, is paradoxical. His discovery that all he knew 
as young are old now, that he too is time's victim, is accompanied by 
a release from time in privileged moments and consequent art. Those 
liberating moments, the climax of his search, are akin to moments in 
the rose garden, by the pool, or in the chapel that free Eliot, expert 
in times present and times past, from time and, uniting it with the 
timeless, approximate eternity. Proust too relies on gifts. No effort of 
intellect or will, such as those expended in vain upon the three trees, 
will give what must be given; for involuntary memory must open 
reality's door. 

In those conjunctions of sensation and memory bringing gifts we 
can call sensation the "signal" (as Proust does) or stimulus of mem- 
ory, or, preferring their concurrence, we can call them equal inter- 
acting elements of a montage. There they are, side by side, and out 
of their rapport comes something that gives ecstasy and indifference 
to death, something radiant and disengaged from utility. Though 
sensation and memory, the creators of this happiness, are in time, 
they bring not only what Eliot desires but what Yeats knew when 
stepping ashore at Byzantium or Mr. Ramsay at his Lighthouse. 
Proust called this creative relationship of elements metaphor, but 
symbol seems a better term for an analogical interaction that em- 
bodies what it presents: the ecstasy of timelessness and that of art, 
another timeless, ecstatic revelation of ultimate or inner reality. Art, 
analogous to its cause, is a more elaborate embodiment of what 
privileged moments offer. "Truth will begin," Proust says in the 
last volume, 


only when the writer takes two different objects, establishes their relation- 
ship . . . and encloses them in the necessary rings of a beautiful style, 
or even when, like life itself, comparing similar qualities in two sensa- 
tions, he makes their essential nature stand out clearly by joining them in 
a metaphor, in order to remove them from the contingencies of time, 
and links them together with the indescribable bond of an alliance of 
words. . . . The relationship may be uninteresting, the objects mediocre 
and the style bad, but without that relationship there is nothing. 

He follows this account of what we might call creative montage 
by attacks on naturalism, which is limited to description of surfaces, 
and on political, sociological, and moral purpose. Poetic, mysterious, 
and profound, art is a "spiritual equivalent" of reality. Deceived by 
long passages of commentary, critics used to call Proust a rational 
analyst of society, a mistake as great as that of those who found him 
devoted to time. His quest was for the timeless, and it is no less plain 
that far from being an intellectual analyst, he was an enemy of rea- 
son, basing his work, like many romantics, on sensation, memory, 
and mystical or even primitive intuition. Intellect, present in his pur- 
posely tedious analyses of what is given, is there as collaborator. 
Serving to examine what one already has, it is a poor substitute, he 
says, for impression. Since writing with the intelligence, he con- 
tinues, deprives a work of depth, we must follow imagination and 
sensibility through deep realities within us to capture "timeless joy"; 
for time is "incarnate," and people and places, fixed in actuality by 
name alone, abide in memory. 

Baudelaire was another who united memory and sensation for ex- 
ploring a rich interior. After the ecstasy at the last party, Proust 
thinks of Baudelaire again and resolves to reread his poems in order 
to claim a share in a "noble literary heritage." Recent French critics, 
Arnaud Dandieu and Emeric Fiser among them, see Proust, as he 


saw himself, an heir to the symbolist tradition; but also preferring 
the word metaphor to symbol, Dandieu calls Proust's work an enor- 
mous metaphor, parallel to the little metaphors of the privileged mo- 
ment. Whatever my preference in words, I cannot quarrel with that. 
"Thinking of a relation between the images of metaphors," as 
Wallace Stevens puts it, we may look at metaphor again from an- 
other point of view. Some way back, when considering the Renais- 
sance, we found metaphor a limited correspondence, suitable for 
those in definite worlds. For romantics, however, metaphor, tran- 
scending the equation that seems to direct its meaning, may wear an- 
other aspect, as we discovered, and, becoming a structure of two 
objects or a montage of two interacting images, it may produce 
effects both unforeseen and indefinite. Donne could not have re- 
garded his equation of compasses and lovers in this romantic light, 
but, putting history aside, we may see his structure as the creative 
collaboration of Eisenstein's delight. We are on firmer ground with 
Eliot's conjunction of sunset and patient on table, a romantic prod- 
uct, expanding to the limits of our desire. If, then, we find metaphor 
montage, as Proust and Dandieu did, we must consider the related 
terms to find the effectual kinds. Strong similarity links the terms 
of Proust's metaphor, but the terms of Eliot's simile have less in 
common. Is the creative power of metaphorical juxtaposition more 
dependent on the similarity or the dissimilarity of its terms ? Is con- 
flict more productive than agreement ? When John Cleveland com- 
pares a woman's hand to "a jelly gloved," he creates little but amaze- 
ment and disgust; on the other hand, the terms of a comparison may 
be so much alike that, leaving us cold, they produce nothing at all. 
I judge, therefore, that the most productive kind of comparison is 
one in which similarity is balanced by dissimilarity. That would 


seem to exclude Sweeney and Agamemnon, but there are exceptions; 
for art has a way of flirting its tail at our rules as it passes them by. 
To predict the effect of a conjunction or the most creative distance 
between its elements may be impossible, and we must judge success 
by what we feel. I think it safe to say, however, that metaphor, taken 
as montage of quarreling or collaborating elements, is as symbolic as 
image or action alone. From our present point of view metaphor is 
a metaphor for symbol. 

Montage of times to get back to that is no more provocative 
than montage of discourse and image or action. I used to be troubled 
by Lawrence's mixture in Women in Love of imagistic splendor with 
sermons by Birkin, but now I see that the stoning of the moon's re- 
flection in the pool would lack something without Birkin's discursive 
accompaniment. Though once impatient with those who limited and 
weakened image by too much talk, I think now, as I implied in an 
earlier part of this essay, that sometimes the two kinds, working 
together, may produce something richer than either could. Consider 
Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn." Although some critics have found 
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty" a discursive intrusion and a flaw, it 
becomes apparent that the prosaic line is a necessary element. Work- 
ing with the rich details of that "Attic shape," this line, so unfortu- 
nate in appearance, creates the "silent form" that pleases all but those 
thoughtful critics. Consider Eliot's Four Quartets. Plainly success- 
ful, this arrangement depends as much upon discourse as image; 
indeed, it depends upon the two together for its effects. Prosaic ab- 
stractions, like the opening section, become creative by contact with 
images or actions that follow them. What we get from the arrange- 
ment of prose and "poetry" is something greater than either could 
produce alone, something born of their unhappy marriage. Eliot's 


talk of the need of relieving a long poem by prose or verse of less 
intensity is nothing. Not relief but the advantages of juxtaposition 
determined his admirable mixture. 

The process might be plainer in a shorter poem, Yeats's "Choice," 
for example: 

The intellect of man is forced to choose 
Perfection of the life, or of the work, 
And if it take the second must refuse 
A heavenly mansion, raging in the dark. 

This thing, one of the greatest Yeats composed, owes drama, mystery, 
and loveliness to the conjunction of apparently incompatible ele- 
ments, strict prose on the one hand and infernal action on the other. 
"Raging in the dark," a phrase no other poet could have put there, 
combines with the reasonable syntax of what precedes it to present 
the complexities of Yeats's life and, in their degree, our own. 

It is to Wallace Stevens, however, that we must turn for the most 
elaborate exploitation of this structure. The third poem of "Notes 
Toward a Supreme Fiction" begins with a more or less abstract dis- 
course on poetry: "The poem refreshes life so that we share. . . ." 
Refreshing it, the poem brings us back to some immaculate and 
candid first principle. This lecture comes to a violent end in the 
fifth stanza; for there is an Arabian in the room "with his damned 
hoobla-hoobla-hoobla-how." There is a wood dove too with his 
"hoobla-hoo," and farther off the ocean "howls hoo and rises and 
howls hoo and falls." "Life's nonsense," the poet concludes, "pierces 
us with strange relation." Of the relations here several are strange. 
That among "hoobla-hoobla-hoobla-how," "hoobla-hoo," and simple 
"hoo" is less of kind than of degree. All three are nonsense, to be 
sure, but it descends from that of the Arabian mathematician to 


those of bird and inanimate sea. The strangest relation, however, is 
that between the first part of the poem and the second. Alike in being 
parts of life's nonsense, they differ in method, the first discursive 
and the second nondiscursive. As their juxtaposition creates a feel- 
ing of the fundamentals discussed in the lecture and exemplified in 
hoos or hows, the world of ideas and the world of things become a 
single vision. As Stevens says in another poem of the same suite, 
the dependence of opposites on one another, man on woman, day 
on night, or the imagined on the real, is "the origin of change," but 
it is also the condition of montage. 

"Oh beau caboose," one of Stevens's briefer triumphs in this kind, 
may serve to introduce and commend our last example. "So-and-So 
Reclining on Her Couch" proceeds discursively to the last stanza. 
"My dame," Stevens might have said here as he did elsewhere, 
"sing for this person accurate songs." So-and-So, an anonymous fact, 
poses for painters or philosophers on her couch, inviting interpreta- 
tion. Finding her an abstraction or "the thing as idea" may be called 
Projection A. Projection B or "idea as thing" is improving her by 
imagination. Projection C, a compromise between A and B, floats 
her in their contention. It occurs to the projectors now that nature 
may be more acceptable than any of their arts: 

Mrs. Pappadopoulos, and thanks. 

This shocking intrusion of fact upon imagination, of name upon 
anonymity, of the concrete upon the abstract is the second element 
of the montage, a thing of opposite nature on which the first depends, 
So-and-So, variously projected, contends with Mrs. Pappadopoulos tc 
create thoughts and feelings of the nature of things. Structure and 
consequence are not unlike those of Shaw's Man and Superman, in 


which Tanner's enormous discourse is brought to a sudden end 
and made creative partner by the curtain line : "Go on talking," says 
Ann. Joining his eloquence, her remark reveals the nature of man 
and woman, intellect and fact, and the nature of discourse. Stevens's 
discourse, odder than Tanner's, is odder by far than customary dis- 
course. Though bare enough, it is not simple or easy to understand ; 
for the plain facade is dramatically interrupted by the florid, the 
serious by the frivolous and strange. Baudelaire, who anticipated 
Stevens's taste for the baroque, once said, "Le beau est toujours bi- 
zarre." Beautiful and bizarre, the prose of Stevens, a dandy's prose, is 
nevertheless prosaic enough in such poems as "So-and-So" to con- 
tend with the major incursions upon it. Dandyism, also recom- 
mended by Baudelaire, expresses Stevens's ironic reservations, his 
feeling of apartness from the world he accepts, his comment on it, 
his Baudelairian fondness for artifice, and man's protest against 
things, compared to which his most prosaic prose is immaculate. 
"The final elegance," he says, is "plainly to propound." 

One propounds by making propositions, which, although prosaic, 
share with poetic devices a capacity for setting things forth or pro- 
jecting them. A proposition is something either true or false offered 
in the guise of statement for our acceptance or rejection. That such 
structures, however at ease they seem in the logician's alcove, are 
forms of feeling as well is affirmed by Whitehead in Process and 
Reality. "A prepositional feeling," he observes in "Propositions and 
Feelings," the fourth chapter of the third part, "is a feeling whose ob- 
jective datum is a proposition." Neither an actual entity nor an eter- 
nal object nor a feeling, a proposition is a tale "that might be told 
about particular actualities." It enters experience "as the entity form- 
ing the datum of a complex feeling derived from the integration of 
a physical feeling with a conceptual feeling." In other words, per- 


haps, a proposition, no less than an image or an action, may embody 
and present feeling. In a poem, what looks like leanest prose 
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty" may depart from the rational re- 
gions to which it seems committed and stir our hearts. The cause 
of this departure is context or, in the case of "So-and-So," montage, 
which owes its drama here to appearances alone; for what we have 
in "So-and-So" is not a conflict of logic with feeling but a creative 
contention between two forms of feeling and idea. 

Some of my students, failing to understand these things, object to 
Stevens's propositional method. Enamored of images or, at least, 
accustomed to them, they clamor for something like Eliot's early 
poems. Enamored of consistency and decorum, they detest baroque 
mixtures of image and discourse, treatment and tone. It is vain for 
me, attempting an analogy of wines, to tell them that the driest 
wines have the sweetness of dryness; for they have no understanding 
of wines. It is equally vain, however, to attempt the moral approach 
and reprove intolerance of the unfamiliar, which, of course, should 
be familiar enough. The long debates of Settembrini and Naphta 
in The Magic Mountain, the sermons in A Portrait of the Artist, and 
the essay at the end of War and Peace may propound idea but, work- 
ing with narrative and image, these propositional structures are less 
informative than affective. In a work of art, as Susanne Langer ob- 
serves, discourse becomes nondiscursive and elemental, and, as 
Stevens says, prose will "wear a poem's guise at last." The sermon 
near the end of The Sound and the Fury is the plainest example 
of that. 

My third way of joining, while presenting, things is leitmotiv or 
thematic elaboration. Made known by Wagner's usage, the recurrent 
image or pattern has become increasingly familiar in literature, from 
which maybe Wagner got it, until it seems almost a mark of better 


fiction in our time though by no means peculiar to it. The device 
has become so common that Wellek and Warren find all symbols 
dependent upon repetition, but I find it only one of many symbolic 
devices. "O Nature, and O soul of man!" exclaims Ahab, "how far 
beyond all utterance are your linked analogies!" The captain was 
thinking of correspondences between nature and mind, of course, 
but "linked analogies," taken from context, are an apt description 
of the elaborated image. The great authorities on that are E. M. 
Forster and E. K. Brown, the great practitioners Mann, Proust, and 

An admirer of Moby Dicf( f Forster says in Aspects of the Novel 
that "if one god must be invoked specially, let us call upon Hermes." 
I am not sure that he had correspondences in mind at that moment, 
but he was generally attentive to linked analogies; indeed, "Pattern 
and Rhythm," a chapter of Aspects of the Novel, is the first system- 
atic account of the device as writers use it. Pattern, a word borrowed 
from painting, and rhythm, a word borrowed from music, are 
structural. Pattern or what causes us to apprehend "the shape as a 
whole" is not our immediate concern, but rhythm is. For Forster it 
has two meanings, the first of which is the relationship between large 
movements as in a symphony. No example of such massive relation- 
ship in literature occurs to Forster, who modestly forgets the three 
movements of A Passage to India and prefers to ignore Ulysses; To 
the Lighthouse came too late, of course, to recall by internal relation- 
ship of parts his own work, to which it is indebted. The second sense 
of rhythm, however, is what we want; for rhythm of this kind is 
recurrent theme, and his example is Vinteuil's "little phrase" in 

This pioneer analysis of the phrase, though incomplete since 
Forster wrote before the publication of Proust's last volumes, is ex- 


ccllent nevertheless. Serving to "stitch" the book together from 
within, that phrase, he says, does more than anything else in the 
otherwise "chaotic" book to make us "feel we are in a homogeneous 
world." By cumulative recurrence and development, gradually ac- 
quiring new meanings from this context or that, associated now with 
Vinteuil's horrible daughter, with Swann, with Marcel, and their 
three loves, the phrase, while stitching all together, comes to mean 
everything to the reader as well as to those heroes. Not always 
present, as pattern is, rhythm fills us with surprise by a waxing and 
waning unlike the contrived, mechanical recurrence of Meredith's 
cherry tree and Galsworthy's spaniel. Forster doubts that rhythm or 
"repetition plus variation" and "expansion" can be achieved by those 
who work things consciously out beforehand. 

Without the final volumes at hand, Forster failed to see not only 
the structure of the book but the difference between Swann's inter- 
pretation of the phrase and Marcel's. For Swann the "indefinite" 
and "ineffable" phrase captures and makes apparent by "harmonious, 
fleeting form" his love for Odette. When Marcel in his turn hears the 
sonata, the recurring motif, which reminds him of Wagner, evokes 
memories of Combray and corresponds to his love for Albertine, but 
when it recurs for a moment in the septet, where it is transfigured, 
the little phrase, still bringing Albertine to mind, now seems to em- 
body that created world, beyond analysis, which corresponds to 
spiritual or interior reality. No longer a symbol of love or no longer 
that alone, the phrase, "a profound equivalent" now to the privileged 
moment, is a symbol of art which, while tying the book together, 
presents the central theme. 

Forster's modest reluctance to mention works of his own detained 
E. K. Brown, who, devoting Rhythm in the Novel to them, traces 
Forster's large rhythm in A Passage to India and his small rhythm 


with its variation and recurrence in Howards End, a work which pre- 
ceded that of Proust by several years. Brown pays particular attention 
to the image of hay, which occurs at the beginning of Howards End, 
expands or interweaves throughout, and recurs with all its accumu- 
lated riches at the end to include the substance of the novel I had 
been tumbling in that hay before I read Brown's excellent mono- 
graph, and I confess myself not a little disappointed that instead of 
disclosing tumblings of my own I must applaud another's. 

Thomas Mann's use of thematic recurrence preceded Forster's as 
his preceded Proust's. Forster may have ignored Mann because he 
planned things out and tells about them. His introduction to Stones 
of Three Decades, for example, and his essay on The Magic Moun- 
tain in the Atlantic Monthly (January, 1953) prove awareness of 
"rhythm" or leitmotiv by elaborate commentary on his practice. 
Whatever the extent of this awareness, it is less, he confesses, than 
that of his critics, who often show him what he has done. 

Mann says that, feeling a deep affinity for music, "the shaping in- 
fluence" upon him, he took the leitmotiv from Wagner and applied 
the device to literature. "To me the novel was always like a sym- 
phony, a work in counterpoint, a thematic fabric; the idea of the 
musical motif plays a great role in it." This magical formula, "which 
works both ways, and links the past with the future, the future with 
the past," establishes the "abiding presentness of the whole at each 
moment." The Magic Mountain may be his most nearly musical 
triumph, but, he says, his original experiment in the kind was Tonio 
Kroger. Planning that long story, he first conceived of a work in 
prose "as a weaving of themes, as a musical complex of associations." 
The results of his experiments proved so difficult that The Magic 
Mountain or even Tonio Kroger must be read more than once. Only 


after the second reading of such a composition "can one really pene- 
trate and enjoy its musical association of ideas. The first time, the 
reader learns the thematic material; he is then in a position to read 
the symbolic and allusive formulas both forwards and backwards." 
Since taking a hint from music does not make music of literature, 
Mann's success with leitmotiv remains brilliantly literary. Not only 
carrying feeling and idea, leitmotiv assures the unity and coherence 
of his structures. 

Pencil and Kirghiz eyes are among the motifs of The Magic 
Mountain. Though its thematic structure, like that of Ulysses or 
Remembrance of Things Past, is too vast and intricate for compen- 
dious analysis, Tonio Kroger, a portrait of the artist as a young and 
middle-aged man, is conveniently short and simple. Like Stephen 
Dedalus, Tonio is articulate about his difficult position in our society, 
and, like Joyce, he is torn between loyalties to the bourgeois world 
from which he has attempted escape and to the world of art he has 
chosen. Aesthetic Stephen finally becomes one with bourgeois Mr. 
Bloom, but Tonio, however aesthetic, always remains a "bourgeois 
manque!' Not a matter of montage, his articulateness, like that of 
Stephen, fails to diminish a feeling carried better by elaborated 
images than by all his discourse. 

As the "winter sun" of the first sentence implies, Tonio Kroger, 
whose name is equally suggestive of opposites, is an uneasy mixture 
of north and south, of respectable father and exotic mother. This 
discrepancy is established and confirmed by repeated images of 
blond extrovert and brunet introvert. Blue-eyed Hans and Ingeborg, 
for whom he yearns, and all the satisfactions of the commonplace 
are balanced by the disreputable pleasures of Italy and Munich and 
the companionship of artistic Slavs. Tonio's situation is concentrated 


for us at two dances, the first at the dancing school in his Baltic town, 
the second, a parody of the first, at a Danish resort. Representing the 
acceptable rhythm of life, these dances prove Tonio an awkward 
outsider looking in. The blond ones of his desire, good at dancing, 
laugh at him, and the only girl who seems to understand falls down. 
These images of dumb savoir faire and knowing ineptitude, joining 
images of blond and dark, are anticipated by the contrast of Schiller 
and photography and by the tiger and polar bear, caged in the hold 
of the ship Tonio takes for Denmark, his refuge from Italy and 
Munich. Recurrent allusions to Hamlet prepare us for this excursion 
while suggesting internal conflict. Tonio's interrogation by the po- 
lice of his native town echoes the case of the convict-banker who 
reads and writes. "After all," says bohemian Tonio, "we are not 
gipsies living in a green wagon; we're respectable people." Such 
phrases and situations, parodying one another as they recur, not only 
present his conflict while he talks about it, but, tying his career to- 
gether, make it massive, ironic, and moving. Repetition with varia- 
tion is plainly the agent of these effects, but neither the expansion nor 
the development that Forster desires is apparent. For these we must 
consult Mann's later works or else the works of Joyce. 

Though another portrait of the artist, Death in Venice is more 
elaborate than Tonio Kroger; and Gustave Aschenbach, the hero, 
though also torn between the bourgeois and the bohemian, is a larger 
figure than Tonio and more suggestive. The conflict between social 
and aesthetic discipline on the one hand and moral abandonment 
on the other that uses the soul of Aschenbach for theater is pro- 
jected by many devices dream and unassigned images among them 
but chiefly by themes which, working together and expanding, 
combine their acquisitions at last in the persons of Tadzio and 
Aschenbach. Alike yet various, these incremental reappearances are 


so delicately involved with one another and with the rest of their 
setting that even after a third reading or a fourth one despairs of 
disentangling them for inspection. 

Four men or better, four varieties of a man comprise the most 
apparent of these motifs. The first man, encountered on the porch 
of the mortuary chapel in Munich, gives Aschenbach the idea of a 
journey; the second, an elderly and repulsive dandy, confronts the 
voyager on the wharf at Pola; the third is the gondolier who takes 
reluctant Aschenbach to the Lido; and the fourth is the vulgar en- 
tertainer at the hotel. These impressive figures, all foreigners and 
alike in respect of conspicuous teeth, loose lips, and snub noses, also 
agree, despite obvious vitality, in suggesting death. The gondolier, 
for example, propels a floating black coffin that invites perpetual rest; 
and the entertainer, whatever his clamor, smells of carbolic. All four 
of them, while promising death, seem aspects and predictions of 
Aschenbach's development. He too is to become a moribund, rouged 
dandy; and he too, as an artist, is an outcast entertainer in a bourgeois 

The traveler in a mackintosh on the porch of the mortuary chapel, 
significantly Byzantine, inspires a vision of tropical swamps that 
constitutes the second motif. This monstrous, lush, and steaming 
landscape, in which tigers pounce, is ambivalent, suggesting both 
life and death. Recurring in Venice, which suffers a disease from such 
a swamp, it becomes the image of that place of outward beauty and 
hidden corruption. Aschenbach's recurrent thoughts of form, adding 
to this complex of city and swamp, make it plain that art is no less 
ambivalent. Though a result of order and the image of divine beauty, 
aesthetic form leads to contempt of morality and to excess. Venice, 
the triumph of form and the place of mephitic canals, becomes the 
image of Aschenbach's ideal and all his troubles. Socrates, telling 


young Phaedrus of a beauty at once worldly and divine, is a fitting 
parallel, recurrent in Aschenbach's thought. 

Tadzio, the object of senile passion, is the final embodiment of 
what the other elements have implied. The concentrate of an artist's 
desire, Tadzio has beauty; but like that of Venice, the swamp, and 
art, that beauty hides disease and death, which, although implicit 
in all these images, hold promise of life, as the references to Nar- 
cissus and Hyacinthus and the final gesture of the boy suggest. Wad- 
ing in the waters, a "pale and lovely Summoner," he points outward 
toward an "immensity of richest expectation." Greater than the in- 
terweaving motifs that grow and deposit their accumulations in his 
person, Tadzio includes the ambivalent meanings of the story: the 
condition of art and of the artist, the decay of beautiful Europe, and 
the condition of man, compelled by Eros and Thanatos, abandon- 
ment and discipline. 

Anticipating Death in Venice, "The Dead" illustrates not only the 
"structural rhythm" Stephen talks about in the Circe episode of 
Ulysses but incremental variation. Dubliners, of which "The Dead" is 
the last and best story, concerns the paralysis and death of Joyce's 
country and moments of self-realization on the part of his moribund 
or immature heroes. The book finds its climax during the course 
of this story in the party given by Aunts Kate and Jane Morkan. As 
we soon discover, their party is an embodiment of death and all the 
people there are living dead, though each has some connection with 
life and at least the possibility of living if not much opportunity for 
it. The image of snow in connection with this party and these guests 
gradually accumulates the principal meanings, and as it acquires 
them gives them back to context. The expansion of this thematic 
image is exemplary. 


The time is Christmas, season of birth and of the year's death. 
As Gabriel Conroy, the principal figure, enters the house, his aunts 
observe that he must be "perished alive" from cold. "A light fringe 
of snow lay like a cape on the shoulders of his overcoat and like 
toecaps on the toes of his goloshes/' Outside the air is cold yet 
fragrant in contrast with the deathly festivities within as Mary Jane 
plays her academy piece on the piano and aunts "toddle" about. Later, 
after his encounter with Miss Ivors, who leaves the party, almost suc- 
cessfully repudiating death, Gabriel thinks: " How pleasant it would 
be to walk out alone, first along by the river and then through the 
park. The snow would be lying on the branches of the trees and 
forming a bright cap on the top of the Wellington Monument. How 
much more pleasant it would be there than at the supper-table." 
About to commence a speech commending the past, Gabriel thinks 
again of the snow and the pure air out there in the park: "The Well- 
ington Monument wore a gleaming cap of snow that flashed west- 
ward." The recurrence of snow and of the Wellington Monument 
begins to claim our attention. As the guests leave with more good- 
nights than realism would require, Mary Jane observes that snow 
is "general all over Ireland"; even the statue of Dan O'Connell, 
the liberator, has patches of snow on it. Safe at last in the Gresham 
Hotel, Gabriel and Gretta, his wife, go to bed, but, wakeful and shat- 
tered by a sudden awareness of himself, he sees and hears the falling 
snow: "His soul swooned as he heard the snow falling faintly 
through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their 
last end, upon all the living and the dead." 

This recurrent image, taking what it carries from context and tra- 
dition, sometimes supports the meaning of the party and sometimes 
all that seems its opposite. Since snow is a form of water, a tradi- 


tional image of life, it holds the possibility of thawing. Ambivalent, 
therefore, it may hold suggestions of life as well as the death to which 
its coldness and whiteness appear to confine it. 

Of the peripheral images which help to determine these relation- 
ships, Gabriel's "goloshes" are important. Designed for keeping out 
water and snow, these articles point to his character. He even insists 
that his wife wear them although she prefers to walk unprotected in 
the slush: "The next thing he'll buy me," she says, "will be a diving 
suit." Like the macintosh carried by Lenehan in "Two Gallants," an 
earlier story, or the brown macintosh that becomes a motif of Ulysses, 
Gabriel's goloshes, fixing his hostility to water and snow, prove 
snow's connection with life, which, as we have seen, attracts him 
now and again. Another of these peripheral images is the cold in 
the head: "Everybody has colds," says Aunt Kate. Going home in 
the snow, Gretta caught one the year before; and this year Bartell 
D'Arcy, the tenor, is too hoarse to sing. "Mr. D'Arcy doesn't like 
the snow," says Aunt Kate; but since he is one of the least deathly 
people at that party, his dislike, emphasizing the deathliness of 
snow, strengthens that aspect of the ambivalent image. 

By its whiteness snow is connected with Lily, the caretaker's 
daughter, whose name is the first word in the story. That this is not 
accidental is shown by the flower's traditional connections. Not only 
for funerals, the lily is for Easter as well. When Lily brings Gabriel 
three potatoes (roots, seeds, and images of Ireland), she offers life 
to his deadness. By its whiteness snow offers contrast to Mr. Browne, 
who, as he says, is "all brown," and who, as Aunt Kate observes, seems 
"everywhere." Since Joyce has associated brown with decay and death 
throughout the book, Mr. Browne, issuing out into the cold to fetch 
a cab, lends snow a kind of vitality. As it lies fresh, white, and cold 
in Phoenix Park and by the river, obvious signs of resurrection and 


life, Gabriel carves a "fat brown goose" indoors. That this object, 
which collects and carries all the meanings of the party, is opposite 
to the "wild geese" who fled Ireland for foreign parts is suggested by 
the lady who, when offered a wing by carving Gabriel, refuses it. 

In spite of all those goloshes and colds in the head, therefore, snow 
takes on the color of life and reflects it upon the ambiguous narra- 
tive. Gretta's lover, fearless of rain, may have caught his death of 
cold from melted snow in that garden long ago; but although dead, 
he is more nearly alive at the end of the story than Gabriel, confront- 
ing his own inadequacy. His tremendous final vision of the falling 
snow, which seems at first glance his union with all the dead, seems 
to prove on closer inspection an acceptance of death as part of life. 
Like Thomas Mann's Hans Castorp, who also has his vision in the 
snow, Gabriel, losing his old identity, may emerge mature from his 
shattering experience. Leaving goloshes behind, he may go for a 
walk next morning in Phoenix Park where the Wellington Monu- 
ment, at once phallic and funereal, may remind him of the nature 
of things as he passes by. The image of snow carries these meanings 
to us as well. The last of a recurrent series, which has gradually gath- 
ered contradictory meanings, the final image, having received and 
united them, offers them to our sensibilities for penetration. In tra- 
ditional fiction, narrative and characters assume the weight of mean- 
ings, and images, if there at all, are there to embellish it. But in Joyce's 
symbolist story, images by a grand "consult" among themselves and 
with action and character carry the heavier burden. If, attending to 
action and character alone, we ignore these images, we miss the 
vision entirely as those did who used to think Joyce a naturalist. 

It is plain that structure, which is partly determined by narrative 
line and the development of character, is served no less by thematic 
elaboration of images, which by bringing part together with part 


and by uniting them at last helps bring them into such harmony 
that the whole, as Joyce would say, has radiance. Not all particulars 
of "The Dead" are centered by the snow. Some of them, like the 
story of the hospitable monks in their coffins, agree with the general 
idea of death rather than with death's ambivalent image. But some- 
times even such unlikely materials as Gabriel's story of his grand- 
father's horse, who, fascinated by King Billy's statue, walks round 
and round it, are brought under the command of the recurrent 
image. This story, which suggests Ireland's political condition, takes 
its place in the expanding system by relationship with Miss Ivors, 
the statue of Dan O'Connell, the Wellington Monument, and, by in- 
direction, the snow. Acting his story out, Gabriel "paced in a circle 
round the hall in his goloshes." 

We are familiar with the thematic structure of A Portrait of the 
Artist, which, though more elaborate, is of this kind; and we may 
recall some of the recurring materials that help make Ulysses co- 
herent: the interwoven themes of tea, hat, and water and the parallel 
of Moses. I think it safe to say that most great novels of our time 
depend for unity and shape upon such rhythms. Like the works of 
Mann, The Sound and the Fury must be read twice or else, though 
moved, we may miss the devices that move us and create unity of 
effect from materials that might seem loosely joined. On second 
reading we find part linked to part by elaborated themes of tree, 
mirror, watch, water, and flower to mention only a few. Benjy's 
jimson weed develops into Quentin's honeysuckle and into the 
broken narcissus at last. For Quentin at Harvard the mixed odors of 
rain and honeysuckle "came to symbolize night and unrest" as the 
odor of verbena, in the story of that name, comes to hold for young 
Sartoris the ambiguous message of the South. Developing themes in 


The Sound and the Fury help to assure the symphonic relationship 
of the four parts, which, taken together, are another example of the 
great rhythm Forster could not find. 

Poets too have used recurrent imagery. In Eliot's "Prufrock," room, 
street, evening, sea, hair, window, small animals, and many other 
things musically recur. In Stevens's "Sea Surface Full of Clouds," 
effects are established and structure affirmed by the variants of an 
image of chocolate, now rosy, now musky, and by a changing re- 
frain in French. Yeats's archetypal tower, joining poem to poem, 
acquires meanings as it reappears in new contexts until Yeats could 
say, "I declare this tower is my symbol." While retaining earlier 
meanings, each poem has added something new to the capacious 
image, and when the tower appears for the last time in "The Black 
Tower," the garrison of that refuge defends all that Yeats esteemed. 
An effect of this expanding recurrence is to make great separate 
poems seem parts of a greater whole. 

As symbol can serve structure, so structure can serve as symbol. 
To be sure, there is no necessary connection between the structure 
of a symbol and that of what it symbolizes, but structures as well as 
images or actions can embody thought and feeling. By structure I 
mean important framework or contributing shape. Although this 
may bring significant form to mind, I mean another thing entirely. 
Form is all the parts together, and its significance, different from 
their sum, is their creation; whereas structure is but the most con- 
siderable of parts. Metaphor: if literary form is a house, words are 
bricks, images are windows and doors, themes are corridors, and the 
steel framework is structure, which E. M. Forster calls pattern or 
"what causes us to see the book as a whole." Emerging from plot or 
theme, pattern, he continues, is an agent of meaning, unity, and en- 


during beauty. James's Ambassadors or "pattern triumphant" has the 
shape of an hourglass with Paris at the slender waist and with Chad 
and Strether shifting sands at the larger extremities. 

Before coming to such large expressive frames, I pause awhile at 
component structures, which, though smaller than Forster's hour- 
glass, are none the less meaningful. Among these I include rhythms, 
fragments, ambiguities, tricks of grammar or syntax, and the like. 

Whether taken as recurrence of theme, arrangement of words in 
a sentence, or repetitive pattern, rhythm is plainly significant. Mrs. 
Dalloway, sitting and sewing, embodies death as we learn from the 
allusion to Cymbeline but the rhythm of Virginia Woolf's prose, 
more difficult to define yet felt more immediately, supports that 
allusion by feeling and corroborates the images of barking dog, "far 
away barking and barking," and the waves. When in his Journal 
Gerard Hopkins says, "I noticed from the cliff how the sea foots or 
toes the shore . . . now with a push and flow, now slacking, re- 
turning to stress and pulling back," he suggests by the movement of 
his prose what he is talking about. Of larger rhythmical patterns 
Dylan Thomas's "force that through the green fuse drives the 
flower" is a fine example. This poem of life and death suggests their 
process not only by ambiguities of "quicksand," of "sheet" (which 
includes winding sheet, bed sheet, the sail of Theseus, and writing 
paper), and of "crooked worm" (which, although phallic, includes 
tomb and writing finger), but also by rhythm. The third line of 
each stanza, shorter than the rest, implies fall as the other lines imply 
the rise that must precede it: 

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower 
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees 
Is my destroyer. 


Harmonious with sense, this rhythm alone presents all Thomas had 
to say: that life is rising and falling, and that, as the tone implies, 
we might make the best of it. The rhythm is not the poem, but of 
all its elements rhythm is the most important and nearest to the com- 
posite effect in effect. 

Such rhythm is important shape at its plainest. Shapelessness, how- 
ever, can be no less eloquent, as the ends of The Waste Land and A 
Portrait of the Artist prove. That this novel suddenly declines from 
the triumph its course predicts and, avoiding bangs, ends feebly in 
whimpers from a diary is the most astonishing thing about it. Ask- 
ing the reason of that, we must conclude, I think, that the confusion 
of this diary, as carefully planned as the order of the rest, is there 
to Create feelings and ideas for which no shape but shapelessness 
Vould do. By terminal chaos Joyce suggests that Stephen's triumph, 
less than we have been led to expect, is negative, that desire for art 
is an imperfect substitute for capacity. Centered in himself, as the 
form of a diary also suggests, Stephen lacks an effectual center for 
composing things. Fragments of diary, embodying and presenting 
his condition, predict the disappointment that the first chapter of 
Ulysses confirms. It is not until his meeting with Mr. Bloom that 
Stephen finds use for his elaborate aesthetic and fulfills his promise. 
That Eliot's promise, fulfilled in Ash Wednesday and Four Quartets, 
is still prevented in The Waste Land is shown by an ending not 
altogether dissimilar to that of the Portrait. A mess of quotations 
from Dante, Pervigilium Veneris, Gerard de Nerval, Thomas Kyd, 
and the Upanishads serves the purpose of Stephen's diary. These 
"fragments" not only shore up the ruins of fishing Tiresias with 
memories of culture but present his spiritual failure. Perhaps the 
most discouraging thing about the poem is its shapeless ending. 
As revealing as fragments, ambiguities may present inner contra- 


dictions for which the rest of the form is inadequate. Hopkins pro- 
vides the best examples of these in his terrible sonnets. "Ware of a 
world" in "Spelt from Sibyl's Leaves" may mean aware of a world, 
beware of a world, or else, becoming a noun, the wares of a world 
of black and white, right or wrong that has "pashed" all dapple. 
Since that world is moral rather than beautiful or else not this one 
but the next, his conflicts appear by the aid of the ambiguity not 
only aesthetic and neural but theological as well. "Carrion Comfort" 
owes part of its terror to systematic ambiguities involving "( m y 
God!) my God." The questions with which Yeats liked to end his 
poems are equally ambivalent. Seeming statements bringing assur- 
ance and resolving conflicts, they acquire uncertainty when ques- 
tioned at the end. "Among School Children" becomes less final than 
we thought before feeling its punctuation. 

Ups and downs, the business of ironists, carry Eliot's comment on 
J. Alfred Prufrock, whose inflation by the moment of his greatness 
is followed by the snicker of the eternal footman. Stephen Dedalus 
was such another as the inflations and deflations of the Portrait make 
plain. As he approaches the beach of his epiphany, his soul soars in 
ecstasy: "An ecstasy of flight made radiant his eyes and wild his 
breath and tremulous and wild and radiant his windswept limbs," 
a levitation that precedes Icarian descent: "O, Gripes, I'm drownded!" 
His rapture of light and roses after the experience of the wading girl 
is followed by watery tea and yellow dripping in the ignominious 
kitchen. Such ascents and descents project Joyce's ironic contempla- 
tion of an earlier self. 

That distortions of syntax can be as expressive as those of line or 
mass in the painting of Picasso or the sculpture of Moore is demon- 
strated so abundantly in the poems of Mallarme and Hopkins that 
examples seem unnecessary. The latter's triumphs of grammar, 


though less conspicuous, are more fascinating; for at times his poetry 
almost seems its grammar, which, carrying the principal load, be- 
comes a form for feeling and idea. "No worst," the opening phrase 
of a terrible sonnet, is the grimmest thing in a poem that seems at 
first to depend upon grim images. Despairing of a superlative, Hop- 
kins is condemned by this phrase to perpetual comparatives, worse 
following worse without the assurance that the worst provides. His 
"cliffs of fall . . . no-man-fathomed" are more frightful and more 
persuasively unfathomable by the deliberateness of their grammatical 

A passionate grammarian, impatient with the limits of existing 
forms, Hopkins invented a tense to supply and express his need. 
"Have fair fallen," the opening of his sonnet on Henry Purcell, is 
at once novel, exact, and suggestive. This future perfect imperative, 
a form unknown to Allen and Greenough, is suitable for last judg- 
ments, especially on the invincibly ignorant, and for the poet's reser- 
vations, hopes, and charity for one who, though English and musical, 
was Protestant like those lovely British boys of the lost Eurydice. 
Using the same tense and mood for them, Hopkins prays that God 
"have heard" prayers at that "awful overtaking." 

To pass from tense to interjection is less of a descent than it may 
appear. We know that words are symbols, but "ah!" is improved 
beyond all normal possibilities by place and usage in "God's Gran- 
deur," one of the least terrible of Hopkins's sonnets. Brooding over 
the world "with warm breast and with ah! bright wings," the dove 
is raised above custom not only by chiasmatic alliteration but by this 
sublime interruption. Directly expressive of ecstasy, "ah!" is also a 
symbol of the inexpressible, and, by deferring for a moment the 
construction's end, it makes bright wings brighter than we can 
imagine, brighter if possible than the "inexplicable splendour" of 


Eliot's church. The feeling of the sonnet, concentrated in this charged 
word suddenly flames out as if from the Leyden jar of the opening 
lines. Apprehending what it stores and discharges is a test of sensi- 

Tone, dependent on diction, syntax, and connotation, is the clear- 
est embodiment of feeling and intention. Yeats's "maybe" in "Adam's 
Curse," the first poem of his renewal, marks his discovery of common 
speech or what he was to call "natural words in natural order" as 
noble mask. Such "nonchalance of hand," associated with great 
artists or aristocrats, is separated from commonness by a suitable 
distance and by mixture with "all that high breeding of poetical 
style, where there is nothing ostentatious, nothing crude, no breath 
of parvenu or journalist." Charged with "a nobility, a passionate aus- 
terity," this composite speech had for him the "lofty and severe 
quality" of his new desire, and its tone, his greatest construction, 
carries all that is alien to those attics where doors are shut on non- 
chalance and obscurity, embodying the profound, becomes its symbol. 

Frameworks or central structures are elements so large that, like 
central images, they sometimes approximate the forms they support. 
For that reason it is convenient to defer skeletal structures of the 
more intricate kind to the next chapter, where, while considering 
form, I shall notice the structure of Absalom, Absalom! Here we 
shall have to be contented with two smaller, though no less impor- 
tant, examples, both poems, one by Stevens, the other by Yeats. 

"Earthy Anecdote," the first poem of Harmonium, is about bucks 
and a firecat in Oklahoma. Every time the bucks clatter over that 
remote landscape, the firecat stands bristling in the way, until bucks 
and cat, tired at last, sleep. Their action brings many things to mind, 
Blake's Tiger, the life force, or Freud. If Oklahoma is the country of 
dreams, bucks are male, cats female; if the prevention of one by the 


other is what the reality principle offers, the poem celebrates things 
as they are. This interpretation of action and image is confirmed by 
a structure which embodies the same idea and all its attendant feel- 
ings. An introductory passage states the theme, which is illustrated 
by two actions: the first of bucks swerving to the right, then to the 
left because of the firecat. Then these actions and frustrations recur 
more swiftly than before, until the firecat closes his bright eyes and 
the bucks, though we are not told of their response, are free to 
clatter in straight lines or to rest. Exotic creatures, lack of reason, and 
strangeness of place add quality to a design of tensions and release 
which is that of daily living and no less mysterious. 

The pattern of Yeats's "Who Goes With Fergus?" is equally sym- 
bolic. This early poem teases our curiosity as it quiets our anxieties 
by finality of shape in strange union with indeterminateness of sense; 
but the mystery is not so deep as William Empson in Seven Types of 
Ambiguity supposed. If we take the poem in the large context of 
what Yeats was obsessed with at this period, it becomes apparent 
that the opening question, which may seem invitation or warning, 
is invitation with implicit reservation maybe. Voyages of retreat from 
the cares of life to some island are a constant theme of Yeats's early 
poetry, "an old day-dream of my own." The poem before us seems 
another dream of exchanging the troubles of reality for insulation, 
and the trouble that invites it is love with all its hopes, fears, and 
moody brooding; for Yeats had known Maud Gonne a year or two 
by this time. In the peace of this island, the Land of Youth no doubt, 
adult responsibilities such as Fergus shirked will be replaced by danc- 
ing, games of war, poetry, and magic. The atmosphere, clearly ma- 
ternal, except for paternal brazen cars, suggests regression, but our 
immediate concern is the structure of this poem. It begins with a 
question, the more effective for its uncertainty, and a question, as 


we have seen, is the embodiment of a feeling and attitude. This 
question is followed by a double chiasmus or crossing of separated 
elements, prepared for by the adjective "woven." The third line of 
the second stanza is hard and triumphant. After that by sound, 
rhythm, and sense the poem declines softly into a peace which, how- 
ever, is not entirely without hint of disorder. If "white breast" and 
"dim sea," spondees, interrupt the relapse it is only to call attention 
to the comforts of mother. We have, then, the following structure : a 
question, expressive of uncertainty, an integrating chiasmus, a tri- 
umph, a decline, and an all but perfect peace, most passions put aside. 
Because we have known something like this pattern or find it pos- 
sible, we respond. While our minds are occupied by the particulars of 
Yeats's problem, our feelings, more sensitive to such things than 
our minds, accept the structure these particulars compose or the 
shape and quality of an experience. Since, conditioned by what it 
gets from sense, tone, and rhythm, this shape alone corresponds to 
that experience, there is no other way of presenting it. 


The Fur-lined Cup 

.HAT form or the work itself is a symbol, though not agreed 
upon by all, is affirmed by respectable authority. Edmund Spenser's 
Archimago surely a significant name is an enchanter, who, as- 
suming shapes and forms, causes visions; but more recent and less 
enigmatic approaches to what seems symbolic form might be 
more satisfactory, though not more pleasing. Clive Bell's "signif- 
icant form" and Roger Fry's "expressive design," whereby "the 
spirit communicates its most secret and indefinable impulses," are 
supported, as we have observed, by Susanne K. Langer's "forms 
symbolic of human feeling." But the words of poets may seem more 
relevant. During the 1890$ Andre Gide, a disciple of Mallarme at 
the time, said that "a well-composed work is necessarily symbolic," 
and Yeats, proclaiming the poem "an intricate analogy," found "all 
forms," but those especially in which elements are musically related, 
"evoke indefinable and yet precise emotions." Hopkins had called 
poetry speech for inscape's sake and the poem a "shape" for contem- 

This shape, like Keats 's "Attic shape," is a "silent form" to tease 
us out of thought and, in spite of Mrs. Langer back into it. There 
it is, an object filled with potential meaning, to be interpreted by 
the reader, who, working by his lights, is also limited by the nature 
of the object, its sense and quality, for example, and by the internal 
relationships of such parts. Theme, structure, image, and rhythm, 
offering possibilities, help to limit his interpretation, and some of 
these elements may be so important that they all but determine it. 
Contributory meanings are not the poem, however; for that thing, 
a result of relationships, is its meaning. A significant form like a 
painting or a concerto, the poem presents what it is, aiming, as 
Thomas Mann observes, "always and consistently to be that of which 
it speaks." 

The trouble with finding form symbolic, we already know, is that 
it seems to lack the context to which images and other parts owe 
their meaning or some of it. How a thing without such surroundings 
can be like a thing within them, in kind if not degree, is a question 
that reflecting a little should answer; for nothing is free from con- 
text. It may be that the context of a constituent part of the work is 
more literary than that of the form it helps to create, but, however 
unliterary the context of the work and however autonomous its ap- 
pearance, it has surroundings that assist or limit our interpretation. 
What we know of the period in which it was composed, of the lit- 
erary tradition to which it belongs, and of the author's habits or aims 
may function for the work as the work for its images. Our approach 
to a poem by Donne is necessarily different from that to a poem by 
Shelley. Each may be a document confronting us with its particulars, 
but each, like Comus with his rout, conducts a retinue of time, place, 
person, and fashion which, whatever our protests, we do not ignore. 
This inevitable accompaniment, moreover, is not only Donne's or 


Shelley's but our own ; for the faction we support projects its shadow 
round the text, and those protesting most, projecting more, are 
working in their shades. The miserable condition of humanity, 
bound to one law and to another born, was never more apparent. 

A poem written in a symbolist period by one we know to be a 
symbolist carries these circumstances with it to mix, like the tide up 
a river, with our current and to create the troubled medium in which 
the poem swims as we observe it. My attitude toward Eliot is part of 
the context that enlarges and limits my reading of the ode to Har- 
vard. But the context of a work is of less importance than that of a 
constituent image; for in a sense the work, as autonomous as it seems, 
owes more of its meaning and the better part to those relationships 
of part and part that we must make of what we can. Whatever its 
context, the work is also a text, and to interpret a thing that exists 
not only in time and place but by the internal stresses of its own ar- 
rangement we need the cooperation of history, self-awareness, sensi- 
bility, and analysis knowledge of what we bring and what is there. 

The account of symbolic form that I most applaud is the aesthetic 
theory of Stephen Dedalus in A Portrait of the Artist and Stephen 
Hero. Functioning in the narrative as a necessary part of a young 
aesthete's progress, this theory is an element in Joyce's design, but 
whether it was his own aesthetic or at least his own when young is 
not our present concern. What we want is light upon work as symbol, 
which Stephen's theory, abstracted from its place and abstracted 
again for convenience, may afford; for Stephen, starting from the 
artist's image of himself, shows how this "vital," personal matter 
becomes impersonal object, a composite of relationships, and a 

Of the three kinds of art that Stephen arranges in a scale ascend- 
ing from the personal to the impersonal, the last alone detains us. 


Lyric art, the form by which the artist presents his image in relation 
to himself, is the lowest kind, a cry, "the simplest verbal vesture of 
an instant of emotion." Epic art, which presents the artist's image at 
an equal distance from himself and others, is a step toward the splen- 
did detachment of dramatic art, in which the artist's personality has 
been refined out of existence. No longer around, the artist presents 
his image now in immediate relation to others, and of the three 
elements of the aesthetic transaction, the artist, the image, and the 
audience, only the latter two remain. "The esthetic image in the 
dramatic form," says Stephen, "is life purified in and reprojected 
from the human imagination." The surviving relationship between 
image, which has become what Eliot was to call the objective cor- 
relative, and audience is the theater of symbolism and our business. 
Free from the desire or loathing of "kinetic" art, the "static" object, 
facing its audience, invites contemplation. 

That contemplative company proceeds to enjoy wholeness, har- 
mony, and radiance, the three qualities of the dramatic object which 
correspond to the three stages of aesthetic apprehension. Confronted 
with beauty and careless of all else, the enchanted audience imme- 
diately sees the object as "selfbounded and selfcontained" against 
"the immeasurable background of space or time which is not it." 
The "simple sudden synthesis" by which wholeness is perceived 
precedes apprehension of harmony or "symmetry," as the young 
man has it in Stephen Hero. "In other words," he proceeds in the 
Portrait, "the synthesis of immediate perception is followed by the 
analysis of apprehension," as, passing "from point to point, led by 
its formal lines, you apprehend it as balanced part against part 
within its limits; you feel the rhythm of its structure. . . . Having 
first felt that it is one thing you feel now that it is a thing. You ap- 
prehend it as complex, multiple, divisible, separable, made up of its 


parts, the result of its parts and their sum, harmonious." Or, as 
Stephen says in Stephen Hero: "The mind considers the object in 
whole and in part, in relation to itself and to other objects, examines 
the balance of its parts, contemplates the form of the object, traverses 
every cranny of the structure. So the mind receives the impression 
of the symmetry of the object," which is not only a closed system of 
interrelated parts but a thing related to other things. Composed of 
parts, which analysis reveals, the harmonious object is at once their 
"result" and their "sum." Since we have been persuaded that the 
whole is greater than the sum of its parts, his last observation may 
seem dangerously unorthodox; but Stephen is a logician as well as 
an aesthete and his whole, aesthetically greater than its parts as the 
word "result" allows, is also their logical sum. 

The result of harmony or symmetry, however fearful, is radiance, 
the third and highest quality offered to our apprehension. Though 
radiance or what the articulated form presents seems symbolic sug- 
gestion, Stephen is at pains to distinguish between radiance and sym- 
bolism. The claritas of Saint Thomas, translated as radiance, "would 
lead you to believe that he had in mind symbolism or idealism," says 
Stephen, "the supreme quality of beauty being a light from some 
other world, the idea of which the matter was but the symbol." It 
is plain, however, that, while limiting symbol to Platonic transcen- 
dentalism, which, having rejected otherworldly beauty, he rejects, 
Stephen is far from rejecting the result of shape and relationship or 
the significance of form that we call symbolic. A passage in Stephen 
Hero makes this apparent: 

After the analysis which discovers the second quality the mind makes 
the only logically possible synthesis and discovers the third quality. This 
is the moment which I call epiphany. First we recognise that the object 
is one integral thing, then we recognise that it is an organised composite 


structure, a thing in fact: finally, when the relation of the parts is ex- 
quisite, when the parts are adjusted to the special point, we recognise 
that it is that thing which it is. Its soul, its whatness, leaps to us from 
the vestment of its appearance. The soul of the commonest object, the 
structure of which is so adjusted, seems to us radiant. The object achieves 
its epiphany. 

Radiance is epiphany, which, in spite of worldly beauty, remained 
a more congenial term than symbol for Jesuistical Dedalus. It is not 
for want of other music that the procession of saints, martyrs, and 
Christian Brothers in Ulysses, showing forth praise to the Lord, 
chants "the introit in Epiphania Domini which beginneth Surge, 
illuminare" from the Mass for January 6, the feast of the Epiphany. 
Arising and shining are what our symbols do. 

Stephen's radiance or showing-forth is not unlike the "inscape" of 
Gerard Manley Hopkins, which may be defined as the essence or 
individuality of a thing that shines out from it; but whereas Stephen's 
radiance is Thomistic quidditas or whatness, Hopkins's inscape re- 
sembles the haecceitas or thisness of Duns Scotus. Though Thomas 
proceeds from principle to manifestation and Duns from manifesta- 
tion to principle, their ends are the same. Thisness and whatness, 
whether proving God's grandeur or that of an artist, are alike in 
centering upon the object, which reveals what it is. A thing doing 
that is a symbol, and God and the artist are alike in having created 
it. The end of Stephen's aesthetic, as we know, is an image of the 
artist as a god who remains within, behind, beyond, or above his 
handiwork, "invisible, refined out of existence." 

If the artist is a god, his works are worlds, and Stephen's "radiant 
body," however "ellipsoidal," becomes the "mundball" of Finnegans 
WaJ(e. We admired Virginia Woolf's "globed compacted thing" dur- 
ing the pursuit of Hermes, but almost every author of our time em- 


ploys that accurate metaphor or another like it. To achieve "the 
effect of a solid," Proust resolves in the last volume not only to build 
his book like a church but to "create it like a world, without over- 
looking those mysteries whose explanation is probably to be found 
only in other worlds." To E. M. Forster, Dostoyevsky's work seems 
a translucent globe; and James's Ambassadors, no longer an hour- 
glass, coheres "like a planet," swinging through the skies. Finding 
his zodiac changed to a sphere in "A Woman Young and Old," 
Yeats implies change from time to eternity and the work that causes 
it. In his Essays he had praised the "world" of imagination that "must 
grow consistent with itself, emotion . . . related to emotion by a 
system of ordered images" until it becomes "solid underfoot." Ac- 
cording to "The Blood of the Walsungs," Mann finds a book "a 
little, all-embracing universe, into which one plunges and submerges 
oneself in order to draw nourishment out of every syllable." However 
mixed the metaphor, a world of sorts survives though without the 
dryness, austerity, and solitude of Roger Fry's, in which "the mind 
is held in delighted equilibrium by the contemplation of the in- 
evitable relations of all parts of the whole, so that no need exists to 
make reference to what is outside the unity." The pursuit of art for 
art's sake made Fry more exclusive than Proust, who takes account of 
worlds besides his own, and far more exclusive than the metaphor 
allows; for a world, however self-subsistent it seems and however 
impressive its internal arrangements, is part of a solar system, of a 
galaxy, of a cluster of galaxies, and so on till space curves round 

"It is the mundo of the imagination," says Wallace Stevens, in 
whose "Primitive Like an Orb" the "central poem" of his desire be- 
comes the world, and the world that poem. Commonly, however, the 
poem is the "supreme fiction" toward which he makes his elegant 


notes, and since the root of fiction, like that of fact, is creating or 
giving shape, fiction is as good a figure as world for the wholeness 
of radiant form. 

The immediate apprehension of wholeness that Stephen speaks 
of is confirmed not only by poets's metaphors but by the propositions 
of Gestalt psychologists, who cannot see parts for the wholes of 
which experience consists. At once process and product, a Gestalt, 
according to Wolfgang Kohler, an authority, is "a concrete individual 
and characteristic entity, existing as something detached and having 
a shape or form as one of its attributes." It is an organization which, 
though made of parts, is seen as a shape from which the parts gain 
virtue and lacking which they are nothing; for it is the figure, im- 
mediately perceived, that carries meaning and not its elements. 
Without its ground or context, however, the shape would neither 
stand out nor show forth. "Our reality/' says Kurt Kofflta, another 
authority, "is not a mere collection of elemental facts, but consists of 
units in which no part exists by itself, where each part points beyond 
itself and implies a larger whole." 

Facts and significance cease to be two concepts belonging to different 
realms, since a fact is always a fact in an intrinsically coherent whole. 
We could solve no problem of organization by solving it for each point 
separately, one after the other; the solution had to come for the whole. 
Thus we see how the problem of significance is closely bound up with 
the problem of the relation between the whole and its parts. It has been 
said: The whole is more than the sum of its parts. It is more correct to 
say that the whole is something else than the sum of its parts, because 
summing is a meaningless procedure, whereas the whole-part relation- 
ship is meaningful. 

What he says provides an easy transition from wholeness to harmony 
and the analysis Stephen applauds for this stage of apprehension. 


The apprehension of wholeness, assuring worth and the possibility 
of meaning, calls for analysis to justify our impression of organic 
coherence, and to fit this summons we may change the metaphor 
of world for that of little world or organism, a body that invites dis- 
section. Our analytic knife, uncovering liver, lights, bag, and tube, 
may disclose their relationship, development, and function, or what 
is wrong with them, and these, of course, are the objects of critical 
search. For that reason this metaphor seems better for those who, 
following Stephen's attractive process, as we are doing, seek not 
Gestalten alone but the causes of experience. Such formidable analysts 
as New Critics see poems as organisms; and the metaphor is cen- 
tral in Process and Reality, a "philosophy of organism." Although 
acclaiming feeling and concresence, however, Whitehead finds analy- 
sis inadequate. Each ultimate unit of reality may be a "cell-complex," 
as his metaphor demands, but those cells are "not analysable into 
components"; for "when we analyse the novel thing, we find nothing 
but the concresence." While critics of the analytic school, finding 
organisms aggregates of parts and eminently dissectable, take them 
into theaters for brilliant anatomies, Whitehead, remaining out of 
doors, prefers whole and lively bodies, whose excellence, identical 
with shape, is not referable to parts. T. E. Hulme, another philoso- 
pher of development and of those "vital complexities" that the ro- 
mantic movement commended, also rejects analysis at the end of the 
famous essay on romanticism and classicism: 

Now the characteristic of the intellect is that it can only represent com- 
plexities of the mechanical kind. It can only make diagrams, and diagrams 
are essentially things whose parts are separate one from another. The 
intellect always analyses when there is a synthesis it is baffled. That is 
why the artist's work seems mysterious. The intellect can't represent it. 
This is a necessary consequence of the particular nature of the intellect 


and the purposes for which it is formed. It doesn't mean that your synthesis 
is ineffable, simply that it can't be definitely stated. 

Now this is all worked out in Bergson, the central feature of his whole 
philosophy. It is all based on the clear conception of these vital com- 
plexities which he calls Intensive" as opposed to the other kind which 
he calls "extensive," and the recognition of the fact that the intellect can 
only deal with the extensive multiplicity. To deal with the intensive you 
must use intuition. 

Who will go follow Stephen now in view of these objections ? For 
explicators that is an awkward question, but the case is not so des- 
perate as it seems; for, not only centering our minds upon the text, 
analysis, occupying a place between immediate apprehensions, im- 
proves them. Placing analysis where he did in his process shows 
Stephen's estimate of an approach that goes hand in hand with feel- 
ing, a little behind it now and now a little ahead. Guided by feeling 
or leading it along, analysis calls attention to parts that might escape 
us and to relationships among them. That such parts move us un- 
awares is proved by our initial response, but the awareness given by 
analysis may make our second response wider, deeper, and richer 
than the first. It may be true, as Koflfka, Whitehead, and Hulme 
maintain, that analysis is inadequate, suited only to noting parts and 
summing them up, and that there seems a gap between sum and 
whole; but as Saint Thomas, it is said, having reached the limits of 
rational inquiry, resorted at last to mystical intuition for its meaning, 
so the critic, after his enlightening exercise must call upon intuition 
of a more secular variety. His job, not only to indicate what might 
be passed over, to explore die relations of masses, to bring memory 
to bear upon a thing in its surroundings, is to call upon experience 
and taste in order to salute the radiance analysis cannot accost. 

From one point of view radiance is the feeling and idea we get 


from form, and from the other and this is more important it is 
what the object presents. If we get less than that, we are inadequate, 
and if we get more, irrelevant or too ingenious. Not more nor less 
than what the object is but only that must be the critic's end, how- 
ever vain his hope of reaching it. Of the three stages of his apprehen- 
sion, harmony with its analysis demands the greatest space; for we 
talk of what we can. Our necessity and its common disappointment 
are illustrated by Susanne Langer's descent in Feeling and Form 
from formal principles to the analysis of a poem by Goldsmith. After 
such celebrations of form one might expect more than the discovery 
of theme, an element among many that compose the form. 

Goldsmith brings "Sailing to Byzantium" to mind as a suitable 
test of Stephen's equipment. That this poem, one of the greatest 
lyrics, has the virtue of wholeness is plain at first reading, but the 
harmony of parts that creates this effect, though apparent enough, 
awaits analysis for disclosure of much a casual reading passes by. 
Useful, discursive, and extensive, analysis is but another way of 
saying close reading, which any man, in or out of schools, may prac- 
tice if moderately bright and willing to take the trouble; so let us 
explicate the text. 

"That," the first and maybe the most significant word of the 
poem, sets tone, attitude, and situation while opening the drama. 
A distancing demonstrative, it is charged with the ideal of "Ille" and 
his mask ; a gesture in the grand manner, it implies not only separa- 
tion from the contemptible but the impersonality of an artist's desire, 
and, combining these uneasy opposites of contempt and choice with 
triumphant finality of tone, introducing while embodying ambiva- 
lence, it seems no more beginning than end as we know upon re- 
turning from the end of the poem, with our load, to begin again. 
Since poems are made of words, as Mallarme observed, attention to 


one of them is good for you, but if you attend to each, there is 
neither space enough nor time; for analysis, defined as extensive, 
extends too far for convenience, and it becomes necessary to neglect 
and choose. So choosing, we observe a disparity between old men 
and youthful lovers, whether crowding mackerel or singing birds, 
which seems to center in a conflict of "fish, flesh, or fowl" with the 
word "commend" that follows this commonplace trinity and, by 
inappropriate grandeur and distance, makes the triteness of those 
beasts instructive. Their summer song, both sensual and passing, is 
alien to unaging, intellectual monuments. At once ironic and grand, 
those monuments, suggesting the monolithic character of the poem, 
anticipate other permanent things: mosaics, golden artifacts, and 
heaven, which, though out of time, are also its memorials. The dis- 
sonance of "young" and "song," of "seas" and "dies," relieved by 
the terminal rhyme, echoes the conflicts of substance and the promise 
of relief. Restless phrasing, conspiring with sound and sense, troubles 
the rhythm until the last couplet calms us by its sweep. 

The aged man of the second stanza, producer of unaging monu- 
ments, is their opposite, like his scarecrowed stick. His singing, un- 
like the sensual singing of mackerel, is that of soul or unaging in- 
tellect; but singing schools and their meager monuments, implying 
schools of poets or critics, complicate soul and the impersonality 
of song by ego or mutual admiration. These bitter thoughts, made 
nastier by the monumental dissonance of "magnificence," lead to 
the great finalities of "therefore," the important word of this stanza, 
and of the rhymed couplet in which it stands. He has left that place 
of lovers, age, and minor poets for a monumental town, and as we 
rise again at the end of a process, his voyage means success. 

Dead and parts of a mosaic, sages in purgatorial fire, reminding 
us of old men and unaging intellect, are asked to abandon their 


provisional eternities for perning in gyres or, as Yeats's system of 
the moon explains, reentering time. That these gyring masters, at 
once in time and out of it, can instruct souls in song and, consuming 
desire by form, bring us to art or another kind of eternity is no 
more than monuments have suggested; and that Yeats, having 
achieved such eternity, is still sick with desire, implies arrival at a 
porch or lobby and not the place itself. Plainly not there as yet, he 
may dream of what the last stanza discloses. 

Once free from a situation that is neither here nor there, the poet 
hopes for peace in "forms" that combine eternity with time, such 
forms as goldsmiths make of changeless metal, having purged it in 
their fires and hammered it. No longer a person but a form which, 
though resembling no natural thing, recalls objects of an old man's 
sick desire, the creature sings still another song. The golden bough 
on which it sits, made from Frazer's book and Turner's picture, is 
a passport to the Elysian Fields and all fertility as the sitting form, 
though singing of past, present, and future, presents timelessness. 
That it sings to lords and ladies suggests all that is foreign to the 
time from which it comes and something of the personality it has 
otherwise escaped. No dissonance mars its pleasure; nor does shadow 
diminish the fullness of a moon now at its fifteenth night, as gold 
and artifice imply. Byzantium, the meeting place of East and West, 
becomes the concord of all opposites. 

In this organization part is linked to part by stanzaic structure, 
logical progress, recurrence of theme, and conflict. Parallel to the 
others in rhythmic design, each stanza rises from anxieties to a little 
triumph at the end, a design of downs and ups that, recurring on a 
grander scale, proves structure for a whole in which three troubled 
stanzas are followed by a triumphant fourth. A logical progression 
which, occupying the mind and pleasing it, creates feelings of unity, 


ties each stanza to the next until, concluding what feels like a syl- 
logism, we cry "Q.E.D." Reappearing themes, not only that of song, 
which, as we have noticed, appears with variation in each of the 
parts, but those of bird and artifact, improve our impression of co- 
herence and massiveness. Establishing another pattern, conflicts of 
life and death, sense and soul, youth and age, the personal and the 
objective, time and eternity, nature and art, flux and permanence 
compose a drama in which even such quarrels as that of stanza with 
tone play a part, less obvious perhaps than the great quarrel of Eros 
and Thanatos, but not less affective. Byronic ottava rima, the stanza 
of Yeats's choice, assumes an unaccustomed grandeur in his hands 
while preserving memories of a comic past. Diction, ranging from 
the grand to the commonplace, and tones, ranging from irony and 
bitterness to nobility and equanimity, add their tensions to the great 
design of incompatibles. 

But the conflicts, great and small, that compose this drama are 
settled at the end by agreement of image, rhythm, and tone, and we 
are left in what Yeats once called "measured quietude," the sweeter 
for the troubles that precede it. The golden bird, bringing artifact 
together with the natural bird of the first stanza, ends all conflicts of 
nature and art, sense and soul, life and death, while its song unites 
eternity with time. Such fusions of idea, however, are surpassed by 
those great assurances of rhythm, sound, and tone which, although 
less logical than technical, compose our feelings at the end. 

However autonomous this tight organization seems, it depends for 
part of its success upon things outside it. "Perne in a gyre" is private 
and meaningless unless we know A Vision or some commentary. 
Knowledge of Yeats's life and all his habits, hates, and preferences 
improves our understanding of the text, and if we are historians, 
so do our knowledge of the mechanical bird maintained in Byzan- 


tium by the emperor Theophilus and our awareness of the literary 
tradition in which the poem takes its place. Baudelaire's artificial 
paradise and Eliot's Chinese jar, moving in its stillness, though paral- 
lel, are less important here than Marvell's "Garden," Keats's "Ode 
to a Nightingale," and closest of all, his "Ode on a Grecian Urn." 
Providing a closer setting, Yeats's other poems cannot be ignored ; for 
without "Byzantium," a later expansion, "The Lake Isle of Innis- 
free," an earlier and less mature attempt, and the dancer, at once 
dead and alive, in "The Double Vision of Michael Robartes" both 
holy city and golden bird would lack something of the richness the 
literate find in them. 

Emerging from these elements and references, the theme, apparent 
at last, is a union of dying and hope of heaven with an aesthetic par- 
allel, the making of song. Analysis, which brings us to this point, 
cannot go beyond it, and my attempt, as good as most, has all the 
inadequacies that Hulme and Whitehead foretold. Though plainly 
incomplete and failing to exhaust its matter or to prevent other 
analyses, whether better or worse, mine may call attention to some of 
the parts and their relationships and account in part for our first im- 
pression of wholeness, but it fails to explain the poem's glory. The 
exercise of wits is pleasing, but we must know the radiance of form. 

For that, rising like Saint Thomas, we call upon intuition or, now 
instructed to a point, upon impression again. It is evident that radi- 
ance or the composite of idea and feeling that the poem as a whole 
shows forth has some connection with life and death. Far from 
being a sanctuary for extinct birds, Byzantium is as vital as a place can 
be, and though presenting golden death, the poem glows with 
brighter fires than goldsmiths use or sages come from. The pattern 
of living, dying, and creating the vital process of conflict and recon- 
ciliation not there for its own sake, is there to serve a vision of art. 


An example of the work of art, the poem, concentrating the feeling 
and idea of art's nature, is its symbol. Although many poems nowa- 
days are about poems or poets at work, "Sailing to Byzantium," dif- 
fering from most, is not only about art but a revelation of timelessness 
in time or art's essential. 

Revealing that, the poem must also create what Yeats calls the 
semblance of peace if he and many other poets are right about the 
effect of poems. Speaking of logic, natural law, and art, three ways 
of knowing, Yeats finds peace the end of art; Dylan Thomas refers 
to "that momentary peace which is a poem"; and Wallace Stevens's 
form is a "transparence" bringing peace. Aristotle's catharsis, Mil- 
ton's "all passions spent," and I. A. Richards's fancy of ordering 
impulses that quarreled once among themselves support this idea of 
art's effect. The stasis of Stephen Dedalus and his "enchantment of 
the heart" seem other ways of putting it; and Eliot, speaking of that 
Chinese jar in Four Quartets, must have had something like this in 
mind as he discursively pursues discourse beyond itself to image and 

Words, after speech, reach 

Into the silence. Only by the form, the pattern, 

Can words or music reach 

The stillness, as a Chinese jar still 

Moves perpetually in its stillness. 

These excellent words, which could introduce "Sailing to Byzan- 
tium," refer to something like the purged images of "Byzantium," 
whether dome, mosaics of dancing floor, or golden bird, that, uniting 
"furies of complexity," make us forget for a moment the tormented 
seas around us. 

My apprehension of what "Sailing to Byzantium" radiates, al- 
though supported by parallel and authority, seems no less inadequate 


than the analysis of harmony that preceded it. It may be that I lack 
wits for this enterprise or else the system of steps that Stephen com- 
mends is better adapted to the apprehension of form than of a form. 
The works of Susanne Langer, too, almost persuade me that it is 
easier to talk about forms in general than poems in particular. My 
admiration of these aestheticians remains undiminished, but I con- 
clude that Stephen's system, however close to art, is not a method; 
for practice, unable to follow in his steps, must combine intuitions 
of radiance with analysis at each stage of apprehension in the hope 
of escaping the meagerness of each alone. Maybe the "organic 
rhythms" or forms "the embodiment of the imagination, that 
neither desires nor hates, because it has done with time, and only 
wishes to gaze upon some reality" that Yeats, no mean critic, refers 
to in his "Symbolism of Poetry" are beyond analysis though not 
altogether beyond impression. "Although you can expound an 
opinion," he says, "or describe a thing . . . you cannot give a body 
to something that moves beyond the senses. . . . The form of sin- 
cere poetry . . . must have perfections that escape analysis." That 
some synthesis of analysis and impression, however, may approximate 
the effect of the sincerest poetry or, like a metaphor, correspond to 
it, must remain a hope else critics, discouraged by their tools, can 
shut up shop. 

They may order these things better in France; so let us consider 
one of those explications de texte for which the French are famous 
to see how they attend to form and radiance. The "demonstration" 
of Paul Valery's "Cimetiere Marin" by Gustave Cohen for his course 
in method at the Sorbonne should prove exemplary. Although his 
"hypothesis" about design and substance seems less hypothetical 
than assured, his approach, admirably systematic, is excellently clear. 
"A sonorous frame surrounding floating images," the great poem be- 


longs in method, he says, to the tradition of Baudelaire and Mallarme, 
owing "correspondences" to one and "hermetism" or linked sugges- 
tions to the other. Consequent obscurity is increased by a condensa- 
tion peculiar to Valery; for the twenty years of thought that pro- 
duced this poem "charged" it with meanings. 

The images that veil yet reveal this philosophical experience veil 
for common readers but reveal to explicators in their chairs are 
the Midi, its sun at noon, the cemetery at Sete, and the scintillating 
sea that dominates the place. Elaborated like "leitmotivs," these 
images are enriched by contributory similes, such as that of fruit 
melting in the mouth, and by significant adjectives, such as pur, 
which means the absolute. Neglecting Mallarmeian suggestiveness, 
Professor Cohen, a specialist in mediaeval literature, assigns definite 
meanings to these images. Midi and the sun, representing the pur, 
are static, eternal, and inhuman ; whereas the sea, representing being 
in opposition to the nonbeing of South and sun, is movement, change, 
and time. The meditator's monologue concerns a choice between these 
opposites, and his consciousness becomes the theater of a metaphysical 
drama in four acts. Tempted for awhile to unite with motionless non- 
being in a kind of mystical abandonment, the speaker discovers the 
mobility of being and all its attractiveness, already suggested to us 
by certain adjectives and verbs of the first and second stanzas. Debate 
among the tombs weighs the charms of motionless dead and moving 
worm, until, choosing movement, life, and creation, and emerging, 
like Valery, from ten years of silence, the thinker, rejecting the Midi, 
becomes one with glittering sea, that profound fluid which, with its 
dovelike or marauding sails, occupies the first stanza and the last. 

Historical at times, Professor Cohen brings Valery's life, ideas, and 
other poems to bear upon the text, compares the thoughts of famous 
philosophers with those of Valery's thinker, and places the poem not 


only in the symbolist tradition but in the graveyard school; yet his 
main concern is the text with all its nouns, verbs, and adjectives. 
Proceeding through the stanzas one by one, he explains all but what 
selection prevents. His interests seem more rational than aesthetic, 
however; for though he admits that a poem is not a discourse, that 
it reports no more than the "frisson" and rhythm of twenty years 
of thought, he does his best to make an essay of his poem. Elucidating 
what Richards would call the prose sense or, like Urban, expanding 
the symbol, Cohen abstracts an element of the poem for display, and 
the structure he notices is that of a philosophical process. His analy- 
sis of that may clear up much that might have remained obscure, but, 
revealing the limitations of analysis, it does nothing to show poem 
as poem, as Valery's comments, published as an introduction to 
Cohen's commentary, hint. 

The poet, who was present at this academic exercise, is pleased, he 
says, at having work of his exposed among classics before a black- 
board, but, however tolerant of hypothesis and however polite, he in- 
sists, as his italics show, that for him "il ny a pas dc vrai sens d'un 
texte" Neither critic nor author turned explicator can have the final 
word. Thinking of what he intended, the author allows his intention 
to hide what he has made, which, independent now, is another thing 
entirely; yet to Cohen's admirable attempt he may as well append 
his own. When he wrote the poem, he was obsessed with a crafts- 
man's ideal of perfection; and for him the poem, a victory over re- 
luctant syntax, harmony, and idea, was a "world of reciprocal rela- 
tions," opposite to the world of prose which loses itself in its ideas. 
The poetic world, established "by the number, or rather, by the 
density of images, figures, consonances, dissonances, by the linking 
of rhythms and turns," cannot be reduced to prose without diminish- 
ing it. "Poetic necessity is inseparable from sensible form; and 


thoughts, announced or suggested by the text of a poem, are not at 
all the sole or important object of the discourse but means which, 
working together on an equal fooling with sounds, cadences, rhythm, 
and ornament, provoke and sustain a certain tension or exaltation, 
creating a world in us or a state of being that is altogether har- 
monious." When asked what he intended to say in a poem, he an- 
swers that he did not wish to say but to make. 

"Le Cimetiere Marin," which came to him as a decasyllabic pattern 
of six verses, demanding certain contrasts and correspondences and, 
later, a subject to fill the pattern out, is a creation of something from 
nothing, like that of God in Genesis. Once established in his mind, 
this form "permitted me to distribute in my work what it ought to 
contain of the sensible, the affective, and the abstract in order to sug- 
gest, when transported into the poetic universe, the meditation of a 
certain self." Since the ideas with which this self or speaker is con- 
cerned do not play the same role or have values of the same kind as 
ideas in prose, the introduction of Zeno, for example, was not to 
present the ideas of that philosopher but to establish the speaker as 
an "amateur of abstractions," to provide necessary contrast with the 
sepulchral meditation of the previous stanzas, and to draw upon 
philosophy for a little of its color. What Valery thinks he created is 
an "apparatus" that each, including its creator, may use as he can. 
It is plain, therefore, that the philosophical process upon which 
Cohen concentrated is but matter for a form to Valery, for a form 
that means what it is and radiates itself. If the maker of this radiator 
had been able to define it or its radiance, he would not have had to 
make it. 

"A world of reciprocal relations," as Valery describes it, his poem 
is self-contained, rounded by the meeting of the last stanza and the 


first, made solid by the balance of masses and firm by internal 
stresses, connected by recurring themes. As massive and tense as "Sail- 
ing to Byzantium," it also brings its conflicts to an end in peace. 
That such constructions, which hold before us all the peace our 
time can know, are not the only kind of art and not the only kind 
that pleases us is apparent from many poems which, by no means 
visions of unity, peace, and better worlds than ours, present our 
condition by their form. Not final or static but endlessly dynamic, 
inharmonious, and restless, these forms are less like worlds than 
inconclusive wars or, to change the metaphor, less like well-wrought 
urns than fur-lined cups. 

That however inharmonious and unresolved, these uneasy struc- 
tures of incompatibles are aesthetically satisfying and no less radiant 
than the harmonious worlds we have considered is proved by the 
terrible sonnets of Hopkins and, less obviously, by "Easter 1916," a 
vision of becoming, not of being. Easter, a suitable time for rising, 
for renewing a vision of a "romantic Ireland," once thought "dead 
and gone," leaves Yeats torn between conservative leanings and 
heroic ideals. A quarrel between contempt and acceptance or between 
what he used to think and what he is now almost compelled to think 
determines a structure true to internal conflict or sitting on the fence. 
On one hand is his habit of "polite meaningless words" and daily 
encounters in the street with people he had reason to dislike, one of 
whom, annihilated by a phrase, "rode our winged horse," and an- 
other of whom, a "lout," married Maud Gonne, and on the other 
hand is astonishment at their transformation. More appropriate than 
real, his acceptance of their heroism fails to quiet fears that "excess" 
may have bewildered those heroes to the point of doubting England's 
possible honor. Dissonance and dramatic surprise keep new beauty 


from being more than "terrible," and we are left with a cup from 
which our lips seem kept by a lining not unlike the white fur Hop- 
kins thought growing on his lungs, or worse. 

Not a container of ashes as the image of the well-wrought urn 
suggests, such a poem is a cup that, containing living water, pours 
it out and into us; but our satisfaction, in spite of all that fur, is a 
problem. Speaking of opposites, Coleridge, as we know, holds that 
their aesthetic effect is not from balance or neutralization but from 
creating a third thing in our minds; Baudelaire, inclining to dynamic 
art, finds beauty "always double, though the impression it produces 
is one"; and Nicholas of Cusa, whose world was composed of con- 
traries, found them reconciled in God, as, extending his idea to 
aesthetics, we may find them reconciled in the mind of the beholder. 
Whether contraries, contradictions, or incompatibles, the warring 
elements of such a work, evoke a third thing that, like Stevens's So- 
and-So, "floats in their contention." Depending upon our apprehen- 
sion of this floating thing, the work is restless and incomplete, like 
the elements of montage, until the interaction of three elements, one 
here and two there, produces unity akin to peace; yet the two original 
elements of this all but harmonious triad, retaining something of 
their incongruity, allow the form to hint the world we live in. 

Both "Easter 1916" and "Le Cimetiere Marin," however different 
in lining or shape, radiate visions of being and process that are not 
altogether dissimilar. The first with its unconciliated quarrels is no 
less a form for presenting a daily experience than the second with 
quarrels settled by a choice from contending opposites. What both 
these forms produce appears to be the experience of choosing or the 
idea and feeling of thinking. That such radiance is not uncommon 
is affirmed by many poems, those in particular of Wallace Stevens, 
whose "So-and-So" is a good example, but whose "Man With the 


Blue Guitar," being more elaborate, is a better. The guitarist's tune, 
"beyond us, yet ourselves," includes the kinds of poetry. 

This sequence of thirty-three short poems, partly the player's medi- 
tation and partly the demands of his audience, concerns the claims 
of imagination and fact. Should tunes upon the blue guitar present 
things as they are or things transformed as in the mind of Stevens's 
Lady Lowzen, who thought "what is was other things?" Is art, rep- 
resented by the guitar and its blueness, a mixture of imagination and 
green reality as the recurring rhyme of "guitar" and "are" suggests, 
or is it more of one than the other ? Such questions, which have pre- 
occupied Stevens for thirty years or more and have drawn him from 
his desk in Hartford, are asked and variously answered in these 
poems, each of which is a way of looking at the problem, holding it 
up to different lights, or just approaching it. The variety of lights 
and tones provides dramatic interest as the speakers examine not 
only the relationships of imagination with fact but those with politics, 
society, religion, and the artist's personality. As for the central figure 
of the guitarist, which suggests Picasso's arrangement in blue, now 
in Chicago, Stevens has neither seen it nor heard of it, or so he told 
me one day in my parlor. 

One is tempted, as many critics have been, to take Stevens's images 
as signs and his discourse as discourse alone. If we are persuaded 
that Stevens is writing essays on imagination and reality, we can 
take this sequence as a treatise, and very intelligent too; but if we 
do that, finding it saying no more than his other poems say, we have 
reduced his blues and greens to that "universal hue" he calls "the 
basic slate." This monotony, which comes of turning poems into 
prose, is what we might expect; for he is not a composer of mono- 
graphs on aesthetics or metaphysics but a poet, and his thoughts, 
pretty much the same from one poem to another, are only their ma- 


terials. Compelled like Valery to fill his structure out, Stevens also 
chose what moved him, but neither his excitement nor its cause is 
the point of what he made. Not thought but "poetry," as his guitarist 
observes, "is the subject of the poem," and what he ambiguously calls 
"the thinking of art" is not thinking about it but the significance of 
form. If the poem is a "supreme fiction," or something shaped and 
formed, the matter of his poetry consists of notes toward it. 

The form of "The Man With the Blue Guitar" shows tracts of 
serious bareness and economy along with intrusions by the frivolous, 
the grotesque, and the bizarre. Repetition and confusion, ironic 
asides, hesitations followed by momentary assurances and those in 
turn by unanswerable queries, composing no systematic process, are 
the shape of thinking things out on the street perhaps or between 
interruptions in the office. Not to propound a theory of art but to 
suggest the process of trying to frame one and to embody the experi- 
ence of trying to know any difficult thing seem the end of this com- 
plex design, which, in poem XXV, becomes a world twirled upon 
the creator's nose: 

His robes and symbols, ai-yi-yi 
And that-a-way he twirled the thing. 

But the noser and the nosed and all their intercourse find a place in 
a larger world that, although not brought "quite round" in its 
creator's opinion, is round enough to shape the experience of creating 
it. The radiance of this imperfect form, like that of "Easter 1916" or 
the form more like a world of "Le Cimetiere Marin," I repeat, ap- 
pears to be the idea and feeling of thinking, and differences among 
them or their effects come from varieties of shape, substance, and 
My apprehension of what these poems radiate, though preceded 


:>y analysis that I do not display, is not the result of a rational en- 
deavor but rather the more or less sudden result of long acquaintance, 
mproved by analysis. Although what these three poems radiate 
;eems much the same to me, and although I am persuaded that all 
poems are centered in some fundamental process or state, it is not 
nay opinion that the effects of all are either identical or similar. These 
:hree poems may project aspects or qualities of thinking, but other 
poems project other no less vital states that impression, preceded by 
malysis, may approach. 

The poems of Dylan Thomas, for example, hardly ever approach 
the feeling of thought or the idea of it. Celebrating the funda- 
mentals of experience, preferably embryonic at first and then both 
adolescent and mature, these poems embody feelings of considerable 
variety. Analysis of "Fern Hill," one of the great lyrics of our time, 
will lay bare the rhythm, diction, and imagery that affect us: the re- 
:urrence of "Time" and of "green" and "gold," the confusion of 
seasons, and the reference to Adam and Eve in their garden. The 
rhythm, a somewhat "sprung" extension of ballad meter, improves 
the sense of timeless freedom and freedom from utility while the in- 
trusion of maturity at the end adds distance and pathos to the open- 
ing vision and suggests Eden's end. These are parts, of which theme 
may be the determining element, but it is the Gestalt that moves us 
first and last. What it gives me is the feeling and idea of being young 
or rather, because of the last stanza, the more poignant feeling and 
idea of having been. Echoes of fairy tales, the holiness of dingle 
and rosy wood, and fears of the Thief in the night conspire to make 
"In Country Sleep" an embodiment of how it is to be a father. When 
in a bar one afternoon I told Thomas of these impressions, he was 
much affected and cried a little, though whether from pain, drink, or 
agreement I cannot tell. 


Finnegans Wake, midway between the conditions of poetry and 
prose, is at once simple and unfathomable, like the letter found by 
hen in dump. We seem as unable as the interpreters of that letter, 
whether historians, psychologists, or sociologists, to find what the 
simple thing is all about, try as we may. The third chapter, which 
concerns Earwicker's sin in the park, is a case in point. Parallel to 
that of Adam, Earwicker's sin appears to involve two girls and three 
soldiers, but whether guilty Earwicker sinned at all or, if so, how, 
we never know although the matter is subjected to analysis by 
lawyers, journalists, gossips, and professors, who introduce analogies 
of the most suggestive kind. The notes that explain the simple action 
of the tenth chapter, explaining nothing, increase our confusion. 

That these confusions are no less functional than the occasional 
certainties is plain enough. By a circular pattern of monotonous re- 
currence and endless variety Joyce outlines a world at once clear and 
obscure. Going on day after day, things repeat themselves, but how- 
ever great our understanding, their ultimate meaning escapes us. 
Such certainties and obscurities compose a form which by a concert 
of elements presents something obvious and mysterious, common- 
place and exciting, amusing and tiresome, or life itself and its very 
sensation. Our complaints about obscurity are vain; for if we could 
fathom the book entirely, it would lose an effect which depends on 
partial discovery, increasingly greater as we descend from meaning 
to meaning, and residual frustration. For Joyce's purpose parts must 
yield their meaning at once, other parts must yield to effort, and some 
must baffle us. Our joy at discovering an echo, a relationship, or a 
complex of meanings belongs no more to the intended effect than 
the despair of deeper and deeper penetration without arriving at 
some end. What Finnegans Wa\c seems designed to present is not 
only the rhythm, texture, and density of life but the experience of 


trying to understand it. "O life!*' says Stephen at the end of the 
Portrait, "I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of ex- 
perience." Finnegans Wake with its rewards, difficulties, and frus- 
trations, seems the symbol of that endeavor. 

As Joyce's brother Stanislaus says of Ulysses, and what he says is 
also true of Finnegans Wafe, "The whole is one vast symbolic fig- 
ure." Such figures, however, are so vast that we find it impossible to 
apprehend them at a glance as we may a plastic object. Equally 
temporal, the lyric is there on its page, but the novel as a whole is 
never before us for contemplation as a painting is, and we are forced 
to contemplate the current part. If wholes are more important than 
their parts, that is a great disadvantage, greater in the case of sym- 
bolist novels than of a simpler kind ; for whereas the common novel 
depends largely upon narrative to carry its meaning and narrative 
is suitably temporal, the symbolist novel depends less upon sequence 
of events than upon reflexive relationships among its elements. 

These difficulties are the basis of "Spatial Form in Modern Litera- 
ture," an essay by Joseph Frank, who tries to solve them by trans- 
lating time into space. The reader of a modern reflexive work, he 
says, is not only "intended" to apprehend it spatially rather than as 
a sequence but is compelled to. If this is right, we should be able to 
apply the attractive idea to music, a form as temporal and reflexive 
as the symbolist novel, but few would want to. Never making music 
space, I leave it where it belongs in time, where, preferring not to 
confuse the arts, I leave the novel. Extension in time, although a 
disadvantage of literature perhaps, need not prevent the apprehen- 
sion it makes difficult. It is true that reflexive relationships would be 
plainer if displayed in a space that is not too large for apprehension 
in time, but since they are not, we must rely upon rereading and tak- 
ing notes for a sense of relationships and of the whole. Although 


Mr. Frank has put a finger on a difficulty of symbolist fiction, his 
"spatial form" appears to be a metaphor for an effect of memory, 
which, spreading all the little it retains before us, seems to make time 
stop and take shape. To make our memories plain we may draw our 
metaphors from space. 

Notes, memories, and metaphors seem inadequate for a work as 
large and complex as Absalom, Absalom! Faulkner's great novel con- 
cerns Quentin's effort to understand the career of Sutpen, the nature 
of the South, and, beyond these, to realize himself. In his cold room 
at Cambridge, he tells Shreve what others have told him and he re- 
calls; and those roommates, calling upon imagination, create what 
must have been. Seeming at first the center of the story, Sutpen finally 
seems material for fictions as Kurtz serves Marlow in Heart of Dar\- 
ness or as Great Gatsby serves his Carraway. Like Marlow, Quentin 
is the center, and his mind is both our theater and our factory. More 
than materials, Sutpen and the South are Quentin or his greater part. 

The elements from which Quentin composes his fiction are as 
familiar as the allusions to Macbeth, Hamlet, Faust, and the myths 
of Greece that help to make it deeper and more general. Sutpen's 
house, the central image, is intended by that symbolic hero to sur- 
pass the mansion in Virginia where he suffered his childish trauma. 
Designed to shelter a great family, constructed in fury, almost at- 
taining magnificence, the great house falls into decay at last and 
final destruction. At once dream and facade to Sutpen, to Quentin 
this house is a symbol of a South that the houses of Sartoris and 
Snopes do not suggest, and to us, bringing parts together and align- 
ing feelings, it presents the troubles of Quentin and Rosa. There 
are other recurrent images: the horseman, the tombstone, black and 
white, and enclosures (dusty office and attic, perfumed boudoir, and 
dormitory room), but of such images we need consider only one. 


Memories of wistaria, serving to connect Rosa, Quentin's father, and 
the South's brief summer, carry much of the burden of Quentin's 
nostalgia and despair. Shreve, in his overcoat, looking out at north- 
ern snow, may be cynical about wistaria, but to Rosa, Quentin, and 
the reader the flower becomes what Rosa calls a "globed concen- 

Her metaphorical extravagance, recurring metaphors of fever 
and swamp, ponderous sentences without definite shape, actions in 
slow motion all these are expressive devices that help create the 
feeling of nightmare. That thick atmosphere, giving the vision its 
quality, is one of the principal elements of the form. It may be that 
dream, logically considered, is a way of showing that Sutpen, Rosa, 
and the South lived a dream that Quentin is redreaming, that "too 
much, too long remembering" is nightmare. We can be certain, 
however, that Rosa's incubus oppresses us as it obsesses Quentin and 
that reading the book is our nightmare. As in the worst of fever 
dreams, we are compelled to endure a thing again and again. 

The structure if I may take my metaphor from space is circular. 
Like Conrad's idiot boy in The Secret Agent, the book describes 
"circles, circles, circles: innumerable circles, concentric, eccentric; a 
coruscating whirl of circles that by their tangled multitude of re- 
peated curves, uniformity of form, and confusion of intersecting 
lines suggested a rendering of cosmic chaos, the symbolism of a mad 
art attempting the inconceivable." Around Quentin as center, Rosa's 
story of Sutpen describes the inner circle. Next, describing a larger 
circle around that center, comes the version of Quentin's grandfather 
and beyond it that of his father. Then comes Shreve's hypothetical 
construction and finally that of Quentin himself. These concentric 
circles, however, are less circles than segments; for none is com- 
plete and each at another radius repeats segments of the others. 


"Maybe nothing ever happens once and is finished," says Quentin. 
"Maybe happen is never once but like ripples maybe on water after 
the pebble sinks, the ripples moving on, spreading . . . across its 
surface ... to the old ineradicable rhythm." This two-dimensional 
image, which suggests the structure and its effect, is less exact than 
Rosa's three-dimensional "globy and complete instant" that "re- 
peats (repeats? creates, reduces to a fragile evanescent iridescent 
sphere) all of space and time and massy earth." With all it carries of 
character, image, feeling, attitude, and tone, this globy structure 
approximates the form. 

Being from Vermont or some other place, we may have little con- 
cern with the South or with the troubles of a Southerner; but such 
indifference is no real loss, for, as Tonio Kroger says, "what an 
artist talks about is never the main point; it is the raw material in 
and for itself indifferent, out of which with bland and serene mastery, 
he creates the work of art." Raised to generality, Faulkner's local 
matters, far from being the point of the book, become all memory 
and guilt. Another nightmare of circling history, Absalom, Absalom! 
is a form for presenting not only a sense of times and place but, it 
seems to me, the horrors of obsession. 

My way of approaching such forms and their radiance, a coopera- 
tion of analysis and impression, must displease partisans of either 
method, but, while lacking the assurance of logic or faction, my way 
seems suitable enough for something at once articulated and inde- 
terminate. The analyses in this chapter, displaying some of the parts 
that most affect my impression of the whole, are necessarily selec- 
tive; for to be nearly complete, the analysis of a form as complex as 
Absalom, Absalom I would have to be longer than that novel; and 
at the end of a dissection so immoderate the whole would disappear 
among its parts. Impression alone, on the other hand, would stray 


without the restraint of parts that only analysis can disclose. There- 
fore, impression based upon a text made apparent and familiar by 
moderate analysis appears a decent compromise. 

If forms are symbols and symbols, though definite, are indefinite 
in effect, I cannot be positive about meanings ; if forms are intricate 
analogies for something unexpressed, my impression of their radiance 
can be no more than an attempt at telling what forms are like. My 
inconclusive conclusions, no more than reports of possibility, may 
be challenged by those who are either more or less familiar with the 
text than I or more or less sensitive to its shape and quality. When 
I say that the radiance of "Sailing to Byzantium" is an experience 
of timelessness in time, that Finnegans Wakf is a vision of trying to 
understand, or that Absalom, Absalom! is a form for all obsession, 
I am more tentative than I may seem since by brief, convenient is 
in those places I mean suggests to me after some acquaintance with 
the object and some reflection. Such conclusions, neither exhaustive 
nor exclusive, are not attempts to reduce the nondiscursive to dis- 
course or to define the indefinable but to report an apprehension that 
may yield to another tomorrow. 

A friend of mine who attended a lecture at the Sorbonne came 
away with the conviction that all the professor had to say was "de ce 
point de vue-ci" and "de ce point de vue-la." Amazed among my huts, 
howevers, and maybes, I see myself in that professor, and all I can be 
sure of is what Valery, leaving the Sorbonne, proclaimed : "// n'y a pas 
de vrai sens d'un tcxte" a symbolist work has no certain meaning. 



Absalom, Absalom! (Faulkner), 264-67 
"Adolescence" (Auden), 130 
Age of Anxiety, The (Auden), 135, 157 
Aids to Reflection (Coleridge), 39 
Alice in Wonderland (Carroll), 73 
Allegory of Love, The (Lewis), 31 fT. 
Almayer's Folly (Conrad), 76 
"Altar-wise by owl-light" (Thomas), 183 
Ambassadors, The (James), 230, 243 
"Among School Children" (Yeats), 232 
Animal Farm (Orwell), 33 
Anna Karentna (Tolstoi), 77 f. 
Archetypal Patterns in Poetry . . . (Bod- 
kin), 129 

Aristotle, re metaphor, 36; Poetics, 36 
Asclepius (Hermes), 52 
Ash Wednesday (Eliot), 29, 126 
As I Lay Dying (Faulkner), 164 
Aspects of the Novel (Forster), 146; re 

Joyce, 86; re pattern and rhythm, 218 
Assommoir, U (Zola), 70 
At the Halves Well (Yeats), 182 
Auden, W. H., use of landscape as image, 

130 f.; re the quest, 156 f. 
"Adolescence," 130; The Age of Anxi- 

ety, 135, 157; The Enchafcd Flood, 21 f., 
130 f., 156 f.; "Paysage Moralise," 130; 
"The Quest, a Sonnet Sequence," 157 f.; 
"The Sea and the Mirror," 131, 157 
Autobiography (Yeats), 56, 128 ., 207 

"Ballad of the Long-legged Bait" 
(Thomas), 155 f. 

"Bateau ivre" (Rimbaud), 152 f. 
V Baudelaire, Charles, on symbolism, 47 f.; 
doctrine of correspondences, 47 fT.; re 
imagination, 48; islands, 135; city as 
image, 137; union of memory and sensa- 
tion, 21 1 ; influence on Stevens, 216 

"Correspondances," 47; "Lc Cygne," 
116; "La Geante," 107 f.; "L'lnvitation 
au voyage," 135; "Les Phares," 116; 
"Reve Parisien," 137; "Salon de 1859," 
48; "Tableaux Parisiens," 137; "Le 
Voyage," 151 f.; "Un Voyage a Cy- 
there," 135 

"Bear, The" (Faulkner), 164 

Bell, Clive, 237; re art, 7 

Bennett, Arnold, Virginia Woolf re, 70; 
The Old Wives' Tale, 70 

Beyond the Pleasure Principle (Freud), 

Biographia Liter aria (Coleridge), 20, 


Birds, Beasts t and Flowers (Lawrence), 

Blac^ Narcissus (Godden), 126 f. 

"Black Tower, The" (Yeats), 229 

Blake, William, in the Hermetic tradition, 
53; The Song of Los, 53 

Blavatsky, Helena, influence, 55 f.; Isis 
Unveiled, 57 

Blea^ House (Dickens), 72 

"Blessed Virgin Compared to the Air We 
Breathe, The" (Hopkins), 61 

"Blood of the Walsungs, The" (Mann), 
1 86, 243 

Bodkin, Maud, Archetypal Patterns in 
Poetry: Psychological Studies of Imagi- 
nation, 129 

Boehme, Jakob, 53 

Bowra, C. M., The Heritage of Symbol- 
ism, 50 f. 

Breaking of the Circle, The (Nicolson), 


Bridge, The (Crane), 138 f. 
Brown, E. K., Rhythm in the Novel, 

219 f. 
Browne, Sir Thomas, 15, 34, 35; re 

Hermes, 52 f . 

"Burbank with a Baedeker" (Eliot), 209 
Burke, Kenneth, The Philosophy of Liter- \ 

ary Form: Studies in Symbolic Action, 


Butler, Reg, "The Oracle," 118 
"Byzantium" (Yeats), 105 

"Cap and Bells, The" (Yeats), 170 
Carlyle, Thomas, Sartor Resartus, 39 f . 
"Carrion Comfort" (Hopkins), 232 
Carroll, Lewis, Alice in Wonderland, 73 

Cassircr, Ernst, re analogy, 12; re scien- 
tific knowledge, 18 f. 

Essay on Man, 5, 7, 177; Language and 
Myth, 8 f., 177 

Castle, The (Kafka), 139-41 

Cat and the Moon, The (Yeats), 132^ 

Cathleen Ni Houlihan (Yeats), 128 

"Ceremony after a Fire Raid" (Thomas), 

"Certain Noble Plays of Japan" (Yeats), 

Chamber Music (Joyce), 76 

Chekhov, Anton Pavlovich, "The Man in 
the Shell," 135 f. 

"Choice, The" (Yeats), 214 

Cigar, Mallarme's sonnet on, ii5f. 

"Cimetierc Marin, Le" (Valery), 253 ff. 

"Clay" (Joyce), 128 

Cocktail Party, The (Eliot), 4, 121-23; 
parody of liturgy in, 188 

Cohen, Gustavc, re Valery's Cimctiere 
Marin," 253 rT. 

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, Aids to Reflec- 
tion, 39; Biographia Literaria, 20, 38; 
"The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," 
151; The Statesman's Manual, 36, 38 f., 

Collingwood, R. G., Idea of Nature, 33 

"Comedian as the Letter C, The" (Ste- 
vens), 46 

Common Reader, The (Woolf), 69 

Conrad, Joseph, influence of Flaubert, 76; 
self-recognition as symbolist, 87 

Almayer's Folly, 76; Heart of DarJ^ 
ness, 86-91, 264; Lord Jim, 76; Nos- 
tromo, 91 f.; The Secret Agent f 91 f.; 
"The Secret Sharer," 204 

Corpus Hermeticum, 51-61 
"Correspondanccs" (Baudelaire), 47 
Crane, Hart, The Bridge, 138 f.; "Voy- 
ages," i54f. 
Crashaw, Richard, metaphor, 36 


Criterion (Eliot), 102 
"Cygnc, Le" (Baudelaire), 116 
Cymbeline (Shakespeare), quotation 
from, 203 

Dandieu, Arnaud, 211 f. 
Dante, re allegory, 29 f.; rose as symbol, 
42 ff.; allusions to, in Ulysses, 196 ff. 

Convito, 109; Divine Comedy, 28, 31; 
Inferno, 197; Paradiso, igji. 

Daughters with Curls (Stevens), 46 
Day Lewis, Cecil, re the symbol, 104 
"Dead, The" (Joyce), 224 ff. 
Death in Venice (Mann), 118; recurrent 

theme in, 222 ff . 

Death of the Moth, The (Woolf), 149 f. 
"Definition of Love" (Marvell), 37 
Dickens, Charles, symbolic use of setting, 

72 f. 

BleaJ^ House, 72; Great Expectations, 
72; Hard Times, 44; Our Mutual 
Friend, 72 

"Dies irac" (Thomas of Cclano), 194 f. 

Divine Comedy (Dante), rose as symbol, 
28-31; principal parallel for Ulysses, 196 

Dogme de la Haute Magie, Le (Levi), 54 

Donne, John, metaphor, 35; revival of, 
6 1 f.; conceits, 63 ff. 

Dostoyevsky, Fcodor M., The Double, 
204; Notes from Underground, 136 

Double, The (Dostoyevsky), 204 

"Double Vision of Michael Robartes, The" 
(Yeats), i09f., 132,251 

Dubliners (Joyce), 128, 224 

Dunbar, Helen Flanders, Symbolism in 
Medieval Thought and Its Consumma- 
tion in the Divine Comedy, 30 f. 

"Earthy Anecdote" (Stevens), 234 f. 
"East Coker" (Eliot), 192 f. 
"Easter 1916" (Yeats), 257 
"Ego Dominus Tuus" (Yeats), 105, 132 

Egoist, The (Meredith), 73 

Einstein, Albert, 141 

Eiscnstein, Sergei M., The Film Sense, 

205 ff. 

V Eliot, T. S., re poetry as communication, 
17; re images, 29; re Milton, 37; in- 
fluence of metaphysicals, 61 f.; woman 
as image, 112 f.; use of desert as image, 
132; song of Harvard, 137 f.; use of 
ritual, 1 88; use of allusion, 191 ff.; use 
of juxtaposition, 208 f. 

Ash Wednesday, 29, 126; "Burbank 
with a Baedeker," 209; The Cocktail 
Party, 4, 121-23; Criterion, 102; "East 
Coker," 192 f.; The Family Reunion, 
1 88; Four Quartets, H2f., 126, I92f., 
213 f., 252; "The Hollow Men," 4, 132; 
"Little Gidding," 192; "Love Song of J. 
Alfred Prufrock," 63, 105 f., 229; Mur- 
der in the Cathedral, 188; "Rhapsody on 
a Windy Night," 183; "Sweeney among 
the Nightingales," 208 f.; "Tradition 
and the Individual Talent," 19; The 
Waste Land, 104, 126, 187, 191 f., I93f., 

Elizabethan World Picture (Tillyard), 33 
Emerald Tablet, The (Hermes), 52 
i Emerson, Ralph Waldo, on Nature as sym- 
bol of the spirit, 40 f.; "Nature," 41 f. 
! Empson, William, Seven Types of Am- 
biguity, 235 

Enchafed Flood, The (Auden), 156 f.; re 
Moby Dick, 21 f.; use of landscape as 
image, I3of. 

"Encounter, An" (Joyce), 15 
Essay on Man (Cassirer), 5, 7, 177 

Fable, A (Faulkner), 187 
Family Reunion, The (Eliot), 188 
* Faulkner, William, re his own symbolism, 
14 f. 

Absalom, Absalom! 264-67; As I Lay 


Faulkner, William (Continued) 
Dying, 164; "The Bear," 164; A Fable, 
187; Intruder in the Dust, 165; Light in 
August, 166; The Sound and the Fury, 
4, 1 88, 217, 228 f. 

Feeling and Form (Langcr), 7 f., 247 
Feidelson, Charles, re Moby Dic^, 23 
Fergusson, Francis, The Idea of a Theater, 

145 f. 

"Fern Hill" (Thomas), 261 
Ficino, Marsilio, 52 
Fielding, Henry, Tom Jones, 13 
Fighting the Waves (Yeats), 181 
Film Sense, The (Eisenstein), 205 ff. 
Finnegans Wa^e (Joyce), 59; use of the 
pun, 206 .; "mundball," 242; analysis 
of, 262 ff . 
Fiser, Emeric, 211 
Fitzgerald, F. Scott, The Great Gatsby, 

3 * 10 

Flaubert, Gustave, Madame Bovary, 73-76 
Forgotten Language, The (Fromm), 169, 


Forstcr, E. M., symbolism of actions in 
novels of, 147 f.; use of rhythm and 
pattern, 217*!. 

Aspects of the Novel, 86, 146, 218; 
Howards End, 148; A Passage to India, 
86, 142-44, 189 f., 218 

Four Quartets (Eliot), 112 f., 126; effect of 

Milton on, 192 f.; discourse and image, 

213 f.; the Chinese jar, 252 
Frank, Joseph, "Spatial Form in Modern 

Literature," 263 
Frazer, Sir James, re Osiris, 180; Golden 

Bough, 66 
Freud, Sigmund, re symbols, 65 f.; effect 

on literature, 167 ff. 

Beyond the Pleasure Principle, 204; 
The Interpretation of Dreams, 64 ff., 
i68ff., 185 

Fromm, Erich, The Forgotten Language, 

169, 177; analysis of The Trial, 175 
Fry, Roger, 7, 237; "art for art's sake," 
243 ^ 

"Garden, The" (Marvell), 251 
Gaudier-Brzesfo (Pound), 103 
"Geante, La" (Baudelaire), 107 f. 
Germinal (Zola), 70 
Gide, Andre, 237; use of myth, 178 ff. 
Paludes, 14; Thesee, 178 f.; Le Traite 

du Narcisse, I79f.; Le Voyage d'Urien, 

153 f. 
"Gift of Harun Al-Rashid, The" (Yeats), 


Godden, Rumer, Blac^ Narcissus, 126 f. 
"God's Grandeur" (Hopkins), 233 
Gogarty, Oliver, // Isn't This Time of Year 

at All! 182 

Golden Bough (Frazer), 66 
Great Expectations (Dickens), 72 
Great Gatsby, The (Fitzgerald), 3f., 10 
Green, Henry, Living, 94 f.; Loving, 95- 

97; Party Going, 92-95 
Griffith, D. W., 206 
Guillaume de Lorris, The Romance of the 

Rose, 31 ff. 

Hard Times (Dickens), 44 

Hardy, Thomas, Return of the Native, 73; 

"Winter in Durnover Field," 132; The 

Woodlanders, 73 
Harmonium (Stevens), 234 
Hatfield, Henry, re Mann, 186 
Heart of Darkness (Conrad), 86-91, 264 
V Hemingway, Ernest, The Old Man and 

the Sea, 163 f. 

Herbert, George, "Man," 61 
Heritage of Symbolism, The (Bovyra), 

50 f. 
Hermes, 172, Asclepius, 52; Corpus Her- 

meticum, 51-61; The Emerald Tablet, 



Hersey, John, The Marmot Drive, 100 f. 

"Hollow Men, The" (Eliot), 4, 132 

Hopkins, Gerard Manley, 237; sonnet on 
spring, 116; re landscape, 130; use of 
ambiguities, 232; distortions of syntax, 
232 f.; "terrible sonnets," 232 ff., 257; in- 
vention of a tense, 233; "inscape," 242 
"The Blessed Virgin Compared to the 
Air We Breathe," 61; "Carrion Com- 
fort," 232; "God's Grandeur," 233; 
"Spelt from Sibyl's Leaves," 194, 232; 
"Wreck of the Deutschland," 114 

Hulme, T. E., "vital complexities," 245 f.; 
"Notes on Language and Style," 102 

Ibsen, Henrik, The Master Builder, 133 f.; 

The Wild Duc^ i2 4 f. 
Idea of a Theater, The (Fergusson), 145 
Idea of Nature (Collingwood), 33 
Illuminations (Rimbaud), 54 
"In Country Sleep" (Thomas), 261 
Inferno (Dante), 197 
Integration of Personality (Jung), I29f. 
Interpretation of Dreams, The (Freud), 

64 ff., 168 ff., 185 
"In the White Giant's Thigh" (Thomas), 


Intruder in the Dust (Faulkner), 165 
"Invitation au Voyage, L' " (Baudelaire), 


I sis Unveiled (Blavatsky), 57 
It Isn't This Time of Year at All! (Go- 

garty), 182 

James, Henry, 12; The Ambassadors, 230, 


Johnson, Samuel, re Donne's metaphor, 35 
Joyce, James, and Hermes, 56 f.; influence 
of Flaubert, 76; portrayal of symbolic 
cuckold, inf.; desert as symbol, 133; 
use of dream as symbol, 170 f.; use of 
parallels, 185 f.; use of the pun, 206 f.; 

use of recurrent theme, 224-29; theory 
of symbolic form, 239 ff . 
Chamber Music, 76; "Clay," 128; "The 
Dead," 224 ff.; Dubliners, 224; "An En- 
counter," 15; Finnegans Wa^e, 59, 
206 f., 262 f.; A Portrait of the Artist as 
a Young Man, 57 ff., 76 ff., 91, 170, 207, 
217, 231, 239 ff.; Stephen Hero, 76; 
Ulysses, 57 f., I49f., I7of., 195-202 
Judgment of Paris (Vidal), 187 
Jung, Carl G., re symbols, 16, 66; Inte- 
gration of Personality, 129 f. 

Kafka, Franz, The Castle, 139-41; The 
Metamorphosis, 63 f.; The Trial, 174 f. 

Keats, John, 20; "Ode on a Grecian Urn," 
213, 251 

Kirkegaard, Soren, 131 

Klein, A. M., 171 

Koffka, Kurt, 244 

Kohler, Wolfgang, 244 

Lady Chatterley's Lover (Lawrence), 112 
"Lake Isle of Innisfree, The" (Yeats), 251 
Langer, Susanne K., 217, 237; Feeling and 

Form, 7 f., 247 

Language and Myth (Cassirer), 8 f ., 177 
Language and Reality (Urban), n 
VLast Looks at the Lilacs" (Stevens), 63 
f Lawrence, D. H., re his own symbolism, 

14; re fruit as symbol, 127 
Birds, Beasts, and Flowers, 127; Lady 

Chatterley's Lover, 112; The Man Who 

Died, 180; The Plumed Serpent, 189; 

Studies in Classic American Literature, 


Laxdale Hall (Linklater), 187 
Levi, Eliphas, Le Dogme de la Haute 

Magic, 54 

Lewis, C. S., The Allegory of Love, 31 ff. 
Light in August (Faulkner), 166 
Linklater, Eric, Laxdale Hall, 187 


"Little Gidding" (EHot), 192 

Living (Green), 94 f. 

Lord Jim (Conrad), 76 

Lover, Samuel, "The Low-backed Car," 

"Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" 

(Eliot), 63, 105 f.; recurrent images, 229 
Loving (Green), 95-97 
"Low-backed Car, The*' (Lover), 195 
Lowry, Malcolm, Under the Volcano, 98 f. 

Madame Bovary (Flaubert), 73-76 

Magic Mountain, The (Mann), debate re 
Hermes, 56, 172; vision in the snow, 
171 ff.; prepositional structure in, 217; 
leitmotiv in, 220 f. 

Malinowski, Bronislaw, Myth in Primitive 
Psychology, 176 

Mallarme, Stephane, symbols, 48 ff.; son- 
net on his cigar, H5f.; re relationship 
of images, 205; distortions of syntax, 
232 f. 

"Man" (Herbert), 61 

Man and Superman (Shaw), 215 f. 

"Man in the Shell, The" (Chekhov), 
135 f. 

Mann, Thomas, "parody" of myth, 186 f.; 
use of thematic recurrence, 220-24 

"The Blood of the Walsungs," 186; 
Death in Venice, 1 18, 222 ff.; The Magic 
Mountain, 56, 171-74, 217, 220 f.; Stories 
of Three Decades, 220; Tonio Kroger, 
220 ff.; "Tristan," 186 

Man Who Died, The (Lawrence), 180 

"Man with the Blue Guitar, The" 
(Stevens), 258-61 

Marmot Drive, The (Herscy), 100 f. 

Marvcll, Andrew, metaphor, 35; "Defini- 
tion of Love," 37; "The Garden," 251 

Master Builder, The (Ibsen), 133 f. 

Melville, Herman, letter to Mrs. Haw- 
thorne re Moby Dicf^, 13; re sea and 

land, 134 f.; Moby Dic\, 13, 21-26, 134 f. 
Meredith, George, The Egoist, 73; The 

Ordeal of Richard Feverel, 72 
Metamorphosis, The (Kafka), 63 f. 
Midsummer-Night's Dream, A (Shake- 
speare) 10 f. 
Milton, John, Eliot's allusions to, 37, 

192 f.; Samson Agonistes, 192 
Moby DicJ( (Melville), 13, 134 f.; the 

critics re, 21-26 
"Monocle de Mon Oncle, Lc" (Stevens), 


More, Henry, 169 f. 
Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown (Woolf), 

Mrs. Dalloway (Woolf), 203-5; similes, 


Murder in the Cathedral (Eliot), 188 
Myth in Primitive Psychology (Malinow- 
ski), 176 

Nagcl, Ernest, re symbol of science, 18 

"Nature" (Emerson), 41 f. 

Nicolson, Marjoric, The Breaking of the 

Circle, 37 

Night and Day (Woolf), 203 
Nostromo (Conrad), 91 f. 
Notes from Underground (Dostoyevsky), 


"Notes on Language and Style" (Hulme), 

"Notes toward a Supreme Fiction" (Ste- 
vens), 214 f. 

"Ode on a Grecian Urn" (Keats), 213, 251 
"Oil and Blood" (Yeats), 207 f. 
JOld Man and the Sea, The (Hemingway), 

163 f . 

Old Wives' Tale, The (Bennett), 70 
Only Jealousy of Emer, The (Yeats), 

"Oracle, The" (Butler), sculpture, 118 


Ordeal of Richard Feverel, The (Mere- 
dith), 72 

"Ordinary Evening in New Haven, An" 
(Stevens), 113 

Orwell, George, Animal Farm, 33 

Our Mutual Friend (Dickens), 72 

Paludes (Gide), 14 

Paradiso ( Da n te ) , 1 97 f . 

Parsifal, 187 f. 

Party Going (Green), 92-95 

Passage to India, A (Forster), 142-44, 218; 

ritual, 189 f. 

"Paysage Moralise" (Auden), 130 
"Phares, Lcs" (Baudelaire), 116 
"Phases of the Moon" (Yeats), 105 
Philosophy of Literary Form . . . 

(Burke), 146 

Pimander (Hermes), 51-61 
"Pisgah Sight of Palestine, A" (Joyce), 

185 f. 
Plumed Serpent, The (Lawrence), ritual, 

Poe, Edgar Allan, "The Purloined Letter," 


"Poem in October** (Thomas), 208 
Poetics (Aristotle), re metaphor, 36 
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, A 
(Joyce), 57 f., 76 ff., 239 fT.; compared 
with Conrad's Heart of Darkness, 91; 
use of dream as symbol, 170; montage 
in, 207; propositional structure in, 217; 
shapelcssness in, 231; account of sym- 
bolic form, 239 ff. 
Pound, Ezra, Gaudier-Brzesfy, 103 
"Primitive Like an Orb" (Stevens), 243 
Process and Reality (Whitchcad), 216 f., 


Prothalamium (Toynbcc), 100 
' Proust, Marcel, Remembrance of Things 
Past, 119-21, 209-11, 219 

Purcell, Henry, Hopkin's sonnet on, 233 
"Purloined Letter, The** (Poe), 47 

"Quest, The, a Sonnet Sequence" 
(Auden), 157 f. 

Raymond, Marcel, re Baudelaire, 48 
Remembrance of Things Past (Proust), 

119-21, 219; use of montage, 209-11 
Return of the Native (Hardy), 73 
"Reve Parisien" (Baudelaire), 137 
"Rhapsody on a Windy Night" (Eliot), 


Rhythm in the Novel (Brown), 219 f. 

Richards, I. A., re poetry as communica- 
tion, 17 f. 

Rimbaud, Arthur, "Bateau ivrc," 152 f.; 
Illuminations, 54; Season in Hell, 55 

"Rime of the Ancient Mariner, The" 
(Coleridge), 151 

Romance of the Rose, The, 31 ff. 

"Rose of Battle, The" (Yeats), 42 

"Rose upon the Rood of Time" (Yeats), 

"Sailing to Byzantium" (Yeats), analysis 

of, 247-53 

"Salon de 1859" (Baudelaire), 48 
Samson Agonistes (Milton), 192 
Sartor Resartus (Carlylc), 39 f. 
"Sea and the Mirror, The** (Auden), 131, 


Season in Hell (Rimbaud), 55 
"Sea Surface Full of Clouds" (Stevens), 


Secret Agent, The (Conrad), 91 f. 
"Secret Rose, The" (Yeats), 43 
"Secret Sharer, The** (Conrad), 204 
Sedgwick, William Ellery, re Moby Dick, 
/ 23 
Seven Types of Ambiguity (Empson), 



Shakespeare, William, Cymbcline, 203; A 
Midsummer-Night's Dream, iof.; The 
Tempest, n 

Shaw, George Bernard, Man and Super- 
man, 215 f. 

"So-and-So Reclining on Her Couch" 
(Stevens), 215 f. 

Song of Los, The (Blake), 53 

Sound and the Fury, The (Faulkner), 4, 
217; allusion to Narcissus, 188; recur- 
rent theme in, 228 f. 

"Spatial Form in Modern Literature" 
(Frank), 263 

"Spelt from Sibyl's Leaves" (Hopkins), 
194; ambiguities in, 232 

Spenser, Edmund, Archimago, 237 

Spillane, Mickey, 147 

Spurgeon, Caroline, re metaphor, 36; defi- 
nition of the image, 104 

Statesman's Manual, The (Coleridge), 36, 
38 f.; re the relationship of symbols, 205 

Stephen Hero (Joyce), 76, 239 ff.; re radi- 
ance, 241 f. 

Stevens, Wallace, 212; re metaphor and 
simile, 113; discourse and montage, 214- 
17; influence of Baudelaire, 216; 
"mundo" of the imagination, 243 f. 

"The Comedian as the Letter C.," 46; 
"Earthy Anecdote," 234 f.; Harmo- 
nium, 234; "Last Looks at the Lilacs," 
63; "The Man with the Blue Guitar," 
258-61; "Le Monocle de Mon Oncle," 
n6f.; "Notes toward a Supreme Fic- 
tion," 214 f.; "An Ordinary Evening 
in New Haven," 113; "Primitive Like 
an Orb," 243; "Sea Surface Full of 
Clouds," 229; "So-and-So Reclining on 
Her Couch," 215 f. 

Stories of Three Decades (Mann), 220 

Stride (moving picture), 206 

Studies in Classic American Literature 
(Lawrence), re Moby Dick, 22 

Summa Theologica (Thomas Aquinas), 


"Supernatural Songs" (Yeats), 62 
Swedenborg, Emanuel, 53 f . 
"Sweeney among the Nightingales" 

(Eliot), 208 f. 

Swift, Jonathan, A Tale of a Tub, 33 
Symbolism in Medieval Thought . . . 

(Dunbar), 30 f. 
"Symbolism of Poetry" (Yeats), 37, 49 f. 

"Tableaux Parisiens" (Baudelaire), 137 
Tabula Smaragdina (Hermes), 52 
Tale of a Tub, A (Swift), 33 
Tempest, The (Shakespeare), u 
Theosophy, and the Hermetic tradition, 

57 M 
Thesee (Gide), 178 f. 

* Thomas, Dylan, use of Freudian theory, 

185 f.; juxtaposition of images, 208; 
rhythmical pattern, 230 f. 

"Altar-wise by owl-light," 183; "Ballad 
of the Long-legged Bait," 155 f.; "Cere- 
mony after a Fire Raid," 190; "Fern 
Hill," 261; "In Country Sleep," 261; 
"In the White Giant's Thigh," 208; 
"Poem in October," 208 

Thomas Aquinas, Saint, Joyce's allusions 
to, 196; claritas, 241 f.; Summa Theolo- 
gica, 29 

Thomas of Celano, "Dies irae," 194 f. 

Tillyard, E. M. W., Elizabethan World 
Picture, 33 

* Tolstoi, Leo, Anna Karenina, 77 f.; War 

and Peace, 217 
Tom Jones (Fielding), 13 
Tonio Kroger (Mann), 220 fT. 
To the Lighthouse (Woolf), 157-63, 218 
"Tower, The" (Yeats), no 
Toynbee, Philip, Prothalamium, 100 
'Tradition and the Individual Talent" 

(Eliot), 19 


Traite du Narcisse, Lc (Gide), 
Trial, The (Kafka), as dream, 174 f. 
"Tristan" (Mann), 186 

Ulysses (Joyce), 57 f.; symbolic action in, 

149 f.; use of dream as symbol, 170 f.; 

parallels, 185 f.; literary allusions in, 


Under the Volcano (Lowry), 98 f. 
"Un Voyage a Cythere" (Baudelaire), 135 
Urban, William Marshall, Language and 

Reality, n 

Valery, Paul, "Le Cimetiere Marin," 

253 ff. 

Vidal, Gore, Judgment of Paris, 187 
Villiers de 1'Isle Adam, re Le Dogme de 

la Haute Magie, 55 
"Voyage, Le" (Baudelaire), 151 f. 
Voyage d'Urien, Le (Gide), 153^ 
"Voyages" (Crane), I54f. 

Wagner, Richard, leitmotiv, 217 ff.; Die 

W allure, Die (Wagner), Mann's parody 

of, 1 86 f. 

War and Peace (Tolstoi), 217 
Warren, Robert Penn, 151 
Waste Land, The (Eliot), 104, 126; 

Parsifal in, 187; allusion in, 191 f.; epi- 

graph, 193 f.; shapelessness in, 231 
Waves, The (Woolf), Parsifal in, 187 
Whitehead, Alfred North, 4 f.; re analogy, 

12; re symbol, 19; Process and Reality, 

2i6f., 244 

"Who Goes with Fergus?" (Yeats), 235 f. 
Wild Duc\, The (Ibsen), i2 4 f. 
"William Blake and His Illustrations to 

The Divine Comedy" (Yeats), 33 
Williams, Charles, 18 
Wind among the Reeds (Yeats), 170 
"Winter in Durnover Field" (Hardy), 132 

"Woman Young and Old, A" (Yeats), 


Woodlanders, The (Hardy), 73 
Woolf, Virginia, re the modern novel, 

69 f.; re Forster, 149^; re Ulysses, 202; 

prose rhythm, 230 

The Common Reader, 69; The Death 
of the Moth, 149 f.; Mr. Bennett and 
Mrs. Brown, 70; Mrs. Dalloway, 113, 
203-5; Night and Day, 203; To the 
Lighthouse, 158-63, 218; The Waves, 

"Wreck of the Deutschland" (Hopkins), 

Yeats, William Butler, 18, 237; re meta- 
phor, 36, 37; poems of the rose, 42 ft; 
occult pursuits, 55 f.; re Donne, 62; re 
image and symbol, 104^; re embodi- 
ment, 109 f.; re traditional images, 
124^; re symbols, rzfff.; re landscape, 
130; re the desert, I32f.; re dreams, 
169 f.; Cuchulain, 181 f.; re ritual, 188; 
use of montage, 207; use of ambiguities, 


"Among School Children/* 232; At the 

Hawk's Well, 182; Autobiography, 56, 
128 f., 207; "The Black Tower," 229; 
"Byzantium," 105; "The Cap and 
Bells," 170; The Cat and the Moon, 
I32f.; Cathleen Ni Houlihan, 128; 
"Certain Noble Plays of Japan," 182; 
"The Choice," 214; "The Double Vision 
of Michael Robartes," 109 f., 132, 251; 
"Easter 1916," 257; "Ego Dominus 
Tuus," 105, 132; Fighting the Waves, 
181; "The Gift of Harun Al-Rashid," 
132; "The Lake Isle of Innisfree," 251; 
"Oil and Bkd," 207 f.; The Only 
Jealousy of Emer, 181 f.; "Phases of the 
Moon," 105; "The Rose of Battle," 42; 
"The Rose upon the Rood of Time," 


Yeats, William Butler (Continued) vine Comedy," 33; Wind among the 

42; "Sailing to Byzantium," 247-53; Reeds, 170; "A Woman Young and 

"The Secret Rose," 43; "Supernatural Old," 243 
Songs," 62; "The Symbolism of Poetry," 
37, 49 ., 253; "The Tower," no; "Who 

Goes with Fergus?" 235 .; "William Zola, Emile, L'Assommoir, 70; Germinal, 

Blake and His Illustrations to The Di- 70